Daily Covid cases top 13,000, greatest by far
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a Covid-19 response meeting, "In just a few days since Omicron became the dominant variant, the number of daily confirmed cases exceeded 13,000."
This broke the record of 8,571 cases the previous day.
"While we should avoid complacency in our response, there is no need to be overcome with excessive anxiety," said Kim.
Going forward, he said, the country's strategy will be to prioritize reducing critical cases and deaths.
Health authorities warned that daily cases could soar to over 30,000 next month, especially if many people travel over the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The country reported 13,012 new cases Wednesday, bringing total infections to 762,983, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Korea reported 32 fatalities, raising total deaths to 6,620.
There were 385 critically ill coronavirus patients, down seven from the previous day.
Of 12,743 domestic transmissions, 3,110 cases were reported in Seoul, 4,184 in Gyeonggi and 860 in Incheon. There were 269 imported cases.
On Wednesday, Korea began a new testing and treatment regimen in some areas of the country tailored to the spread of the Omicron variant, which became the dominant strain nationwide as of Monday.
The system will initially apply in four areas that have seen particularly rapid rises in Omicron cases: Gwangju, South Jeolla, and Gyeonggi's Pyeongtaek and Anseong.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at district public health center screening clinics will no longer be offered for free to everyone. Instead, they will be prioritized for people who are 60 or older, epidemiologically linked to virus patients, have a doctor's note citing the need for a Covid-19 test, are subject to preemptive testing regularly, or tested positive on a self-testing kit or rapid antigen test.
The system will be introduced nationwide from Saturday, and rapid antigen tests will be available at 256 testing sites across the country.
The quarantine period for fully inoculated people who test positive was reduced from 10 to seven days, while that for unvaccinated patients remains at 10 days. However, the last three days of their quarantine will be voluntary and patients won't be monitored by local authorities.
President Moon Jae-in presided over a Covid-19 response meeting Wednesday afternoon, his first official schedule after ending three days of isolation following his return from a Middle East tour Saturday.
He ordered officials to proceed with preparations for the nationwide expansion of the Omicron response system and also address any possible shortcomings including unstable supplies of test kits.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]