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(5th LD) New infections hit record high of 5,352; 3 more omicron cases reported

All News 21:57 December 04, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with latest figures and outlook in paras 6-7)

SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases, serious cases and deaths hit record highs Saturday as health authorities strengthen virus regulations amid fears over the spread of the omicron variant.

The country added 5,352 new COVID-19 infections, including 5,327 local infections, raising the total caseload to 467,907, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Saturday's tally marks the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the country reported its first one in January 2020 and exceeds the previous record of 5,226 reported Thursday.

The number of critically ill patients was 752, up 16 from Friday, and the death toll came to 3,809, up 70 from a day earlier. The fatality rate stood at 0.81 percent.

The country also added three confirmed cases of the omicron variant, increasing the total to nine.

An employee attaches a notice to the entrance of a Chinese restaurant in Seoul on Dec. 3, 2021, that says customers are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry and that gatherings are capped at six people starting Dec. 6. South Korea said it will limit private gatherings to six people in the capital area and eight in other regions for four weeks, reversing an easing of distancing rules adopted under the "living with COVID-19" scheme last month. (Yonhap)

As of 9 p.m. Saturday, Korea had added 4,006 new cases across the nation, down 221 from the previous day. Cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

Daily infections are expected to fall below 5,000 on Sunday due to fewer tests over the weekend.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 2,266 new cases, with cases from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province at 1,671 and cases from Incheon, just west of Seoul, at 282.

The number of cases from overseas came to 25, raising the total to 15,842.

As of Saturday, health authorities have confirmed nine omicron variant cases and 13 suspected ones, with the results from tests yet to be released.

Of the nine confirmed cases, four came from overseas and five were local infections. Seven out of the nine infected people turned out to have not received COVID-19 vaccines.

The country's first confirmed cases of the variant were discovered in a fully vaccinated couple who returned home from Nigeria last week.

Health authorities are worried about a possible community infection involving the variant, with tests currently under way on over 400 people who attended the same church service in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, as family members of one of the nine infected.

There are currently 719 people who have come in contact with those infected or suspected to have been infected with the omicron variant, the authorities said.

People line up to take a coronavirus test on Dec. 4, 2021, in front of a screening center set up at Songpa Ward in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)

The confirmed cases of the omicron variant pushed the government to tighten its eased rules that began last month under the "living with COVID-19" scheme.

Starting Monday till Jan. 2, the maximum number of people at private gatherings will be cut to six in the greater Seoul area and eight in other areas, from the current 10 and 12.

Visitors to high-risk businesses, including saunas, pubs and gyms, have to show vaccine passes or a negative test result.

Restaurants, cafes, cram schools, movie theaters, public study rooms, libraries and museums are among the newly included places.

Those aged between 12 and 18 also will be required to meet the vaccine pass measures starting Feb. 1.

A one-week grace period for the vaccine pass system will be allowed before the rules are enforced.

Inbound travelers have to be put under a 10-day mandatory quarantine regardless of their vaccination status till Dec. 16.

About 80 percent of the hospital beds for critically ill patients are currently occupied across the country, with the bed occupancy rate reaching nearly 90 percent in the greater Seoul area. There are 894 patients waiting for beds in the capital area and 898 in other regions.

As of midnight Friday, 13,841 patients were being treated at home nationwide.

The KDCA said 42.65 million people, or 83.1 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 41.28 million people, or 80.4 percent, have been fully vaccinated.

About 3.85 million people, or 7.5 percent of the population, have received a booster shot.


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