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(LEAD) Daily cases back above 4,000 amid omicron woes

National 10:17 January 18, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 5-11; ADDS 2nd photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily coronavirus cases climbed back above 4,000 on Tuesday as health authorities remain vigilant over a possible upsurge in infections and the spread of the omicron variant ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The country added 4,072 new COVID-19 infections, including 3,763 local infections, raising the total caseload to 700,102, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 543 Tuesday. The country reported 45 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 6,378. The fatality rate was 0.91 percent.

The number of imported cases was tallied at 309, bringing the total imported cases to 21,932.

This photo taken on Jan. 17, 2022, shows people having lunch at a restaurant in Seoul on the first day of eased social distancing rules. The government raised the limit on the size of private gatherings to six from the previous four but extended a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes, which has been in place since mid-December, for another three weeks until Feb. 6. (Yonhap)

On Tuesday, the government lifted the vaccine pass program at several kinds of multiuse facilities, including department stores, large discount stores, cinemas and cram schools, across the country.

Still, the KDCA has said the vaccine pass scheme will remain in effect at such facilities as cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, indoor gyms, karaoke establishments, internet cafes and public bathhouses.

The program requires people to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results when entering multiuse facilities. It has been in effect since November when the number of daily infections soared to nearly 8,000.

On Monday, the government also raised the limit on the size of private gatherings to six from the previous four. But it extended a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes, which has been in place since mid-December, for another three weeks until Feb. 6.

The move came amid deepening worries over a drastic upsurge in infections, as the highly transmissible omicron variant has spread at a fast pace and many people are expected to travel for family reunions during the Lunar New Year holiday that begins later this month.

As of Tuesday, 43.58 million people, or 84.9 percent of the country's 52 million population, have been fully vaccinated, and 23.74 million, or 46.3 percent, have received booster shots, the KDCA said.

People wait to take coronavirus tests at a makeshift testing center in front of the City Hall in Seoul on Jan. 18, 2022. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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