South Korea’s new Covid cases hit fresh high of over 36,000 amid relentless Omicron spread


SEOUL • South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases exceeded 30,000 for the first time to hit another all-time high of over 36,000 on Saturday amid fast spread of the Omicron variant after a holiday season.

The country reported 36,362 new COVID-19 infections, including 36,162 local cases, raising the total to 971,018, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The latest figure is a whopping increase of nearly 9,000 from the previous daily record of 27,443 reported on Friday, according to Yonhap news agency.

New infections have spiked drastically in recent days, breaking the 20,000 mark for the first time Wednesday, just a week after it topped 10,000 daily cases on Jan 26. New daily cases have soared by nearly five-fold in the past two weeks.

The death toll from COVID-19 came to 6,858, up 22 from a day earlier.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 269, up 12 from the previous day.

Health authorities have warned that the three-day Lunar New Year holiday, which ended Wednesday, could send virus cases to new heights in the weeks to come with daily infections possibly reaching 100,000.

On Friday, South Korea decided to extend the current social distancing curbs for two more weeks through Feb 20, under which private gatherings of more than six people are banned and businesses are subject to a 9 pm curfew.

As of Saturday, 27.95 million people, or 54.5 per cent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.09 million people, accounting for 85.9 per cent.