New cases set to hit another fresh high amid raging omicron

SEOUL-- South Korea's daily coronavirus cases are likely to hit a record high again as the highly transmissible omicron variant is raging across the nation, health officials said Thursday.

As of 6 p.m., the country had reported 211,049 new COVID-19 cases, up 57,208 from the same time the previous day, according to health authorities and city governments. It is the first time new cases have exceeded 200,000 by the time.

The daily total to be released Friday is sure to shatter the current daily record high of 219,241 announced Wednesday. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

The capital had reported 52,795 new cases as of 6 p.m., according to the Seoul government. It marked the first time the tally topped the 50,000-mark in Seoul, home to around one fifth of the country's 52 million population.

Earlier in the day, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 198,803 new coronavirus infections for Wednesday, including 198,749 local cases, raising the total caseload to 3,691,488.

Daily infections surpassed 200,000 for the first time the previous day, when the government suspended the enforcement of the vaccine pass system over the lack of staff handling the pandemic.

The daily caseload stayed above 130,000 for the ninth consecutive day as the omicron strain shows no signs of slowing down, according to the KDCA.

Daily cases exceeded 100,000 for the first time in mid-February.

Virus-related deaths rose to a record high of 128 from 96 a day earlier, bringing the death toll to 8,394. The fatality rate was 0.23 percent, the KDCA said.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients rose to 766 from 762 during the same period.

Health authorities said the current wave is expected to peak at some 250,000 daily cases in mid-March.

The government suspended the vaccine pass system from Tuesday for 11 types of public facilities, including restaurants, cafes, department stores, movie theaters, and museums nationwide.

On Monday, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said the government needs to ease the system for certain low-risk facilities as there is a low chance of transmission if everyone has masks on.

Under the vaccine pass system, people are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result to enter public facilities.

Of the locally transmitted cases reported, Seoul reported 43,675 new cases. The surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western city of Incheon added 51,941 and 15,964 new infections, respectively. Cases from overseas rose 54 to 29,497.

As of Thursday, 31.57 million people, or 61.5 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.37 million, accounting for 86.5 percent, the KDCA said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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