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(LEAD) Daily COVID-19 cases top 13,000: PM

All News 09:09 January 26, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with details, Kim's remarks from 3rd para; ADDS photo)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily coronavirus cases have shot up to over 13,000 as the omicron variant has driven a surge in infections, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Wednesday.

Kim made the remark at a COVID-19 response meeting, saying the spread of the highly contagious omicron has begun in full force.

Wednesday's tally, which counts the number of infections reported over a 24-hour period ending Tuesday midnight, is the highest since the country detected its first case of COVID-19 two years ago and breaks the previous day's record of 8,571.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum presides over a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters at the government complex in Seoul on Jan. 26, 2022. (Yonhap)

On Monday, the government confirmed omicron has become the dominant strain in the country after its detection rate surpassed 50 percent last week.

"From now on, the main goal of our antivirus response will be to reduce critical cases and deaths," Kim said at the meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters.

Kim noted Wednesday marks the start of a new testing and treatment regime designed to minimize disruptions amid the fast spread of omicron.

Under the regime, local hospitals and clinics will administer tests and treat patients, and rapid antigen tests will replace polymerase chain reaction tests at testing sites, except for those aged over 60 or high-risk groups.

The system will initially apply in four areas seeing a surge in omicron cases -- the southwestern city of Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, and the cities of Pyeongtaek and Anseong in Gyeonggi Province.

Starting Saturday, the system will expand nationwide, with the introduction of rapid antigen tests at 256 testing sites across the country, Kim said.

hague@yna.co.kr
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