S.Korea to extend curbs amid Omicron surge, serious COVID-19 cases


SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea mentioned on Friday it can extend stricter social distancing guidelines for 2 weeks amid a persistent surge in serious coronavirus infections and considerations over the unfold of the extremely contagious Omicron variant.

The authorities reinstated the curbs on Dec. 18, six weeks after easing them beneath a “residing with COVID-19” scheme, as record-breaking numbers of latest infections and serious cases put an enormous pressure on the nation’s medical system.

Daily tallies have since decreased, with 4,875 new cases on Thursday, after spiralling close to 8,000 two weeks in the past, however the variety of critically unwell sufferers nonetheless hovers round their highest degree of 1,000, in accordance to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The extension can also be aimed toward bracing for an additional unfold of Omicron cases by utilizing the time to safe extra hospital beds and encourage a booster vaccine shot marketing campaign, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum mentioned.

“We ought to reserve ample beds that may cowl some 10,000 cases a day, and we must also pace up booster pictures and youngsters’s vaccinations,” he instructed an intra-agency assembly.

The curbs, which can be efficient till Jan. 16, ban gatherings of over 4 absolutely vaccinated individuals, and require eating places, cafes and bars to shut by 9 p.m. (1400 GMT) and film theatres and web cafes by 10 p.m.

Unvaccinated individuals can solely dine out alone, or use takeout or supply providers.

Nearly 91% of South Koreans aged 12 or older are absolutely vaccinated.

Total infections stand at 630,838, together with 894 Omicron cases, with 5,563 deaths, the KDCA mentioned.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol instructed a briefing the Omicron variant is probably going to be dominant within the close to future, as seen within the United States and far of Europe.

South Korea has cancelled its conventional midnight bell-ringing ceremony for the second straight 12 months, because the coronavirus stifles New Year celebrations and scaled again different festivities across the globe amid efforts to comprise rampant transmission.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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