South Korea’s new Covid-19 cases top 17,500 as Omicron rages


SEOUL, Jan 29 — South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases reached yet another record high Saturday, driven by a rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, with a new nationwide virus response system coming into force.

The country reported 17,542 new COVID-19 infections, including 17,349 local cases, raising the total to 811,122, Yonhap news agency quoted the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The daily count broke the record for the fifth consecutive day, spiking from 8,570 on Tuesday.

The death toll from COVID-19 came to 6,712, up 34 from Friday. The fatality rate stood at 0.83 per cent.

The public health agency said the infection tally could surge to as many as 100,000 a day in the next several weeks.

South Korea introduced a revised virus response system Saturday to tackle the Omicron wave.

Some 250 testing stations set up at public health centres and large hospitals will adopt both rapid antigen self-tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. People can choose which one they want to take.

People aged over 60 or in high-risk groups, such as those with underlying illnesses, will be prioritised for PCR tests.

Beginning Thursday, local hospitals and clinics will also administer self-test kits.

The KDCA said the revised regime is designed to minimise critical cases and deaths, while preventing an overload and collapse of the medical system.

The system will expand nationwide after the three-day Lunar New Year holiday running till Wednesday.

As of Saturday, 26.85 million people, or 52.3 per cent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots, the KDCA said. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 43.97 million people, accounting for 85.7 per cent.