(3rd LD) S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases above 35,000 for 4th day amid omicron woes
(ATTN: UPDATES with latest figures in fifth para)
SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 infections stayed at more than 35,000 cases for four days in a row Tuesday as the highly infectious omicron variant has become the country's dominant strain.
The country reported 36,719 new COVID-19 infections, including 36,619 local cases, raising the total to 1,081,681, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The accumulated virus caseload surpassed a grim milestone of 1 million on Sunday, two years after South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case.
Tuesday's tally is a twofold increase from the levels seen a week ago and more than a fourfold jump from two weeks ago, the KDCA said.
Health authorities and local governments had reported 28,880 new cases as of 6 p.m., up 5,529 from the same time the previous day and the highest-ever tally compiled for the time. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
The death toll from COVID-19 came to 6,922, up 36 from Monday. The fatality rate was 0.64 percent, down from 0.66 percent a day earlier.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 268, down two from a day earlier, the KDCA said. The number has stayed in the 200s range for 11 days in a row.
The KDCA said intensive care unit beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients were 18.2 percent occupied nationwide, staying at a stable level.
At-home care patients rose by 12,724 from the previous day to a total of 159,169 due to the fast spread of mild COVID-19 patients or those without symptoms, the KDCA said.
Earlier, KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong forecast that at-home care patients may reach around 1 million by early March.
The authorities have said the fast spread of the omicron variant has overwhelmed health workers and government officials, leading the authorities to end their daily checkup calls of low-risk COVID-19 patients treated at home.
Health officials will now make daily checkup calls to only high-risk COVID-19 patients in their 60s or older or those with preexisting medical conditions. Low-risk patients, aged in their 50s or younger, will now be left to monitor their conditions by themselves and contact local hospitals if their symptoms deteriorate.
The authorities, however, said children and pregnant women -- who are not part of a high-risk group -- will be separately monitored.
As of Tuesday, 28.42 million people, or 55.4 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.13 million people, accounting for 86 percent.
Meanwhile, authorities said 615,000 doses of Pfizer Inc. vaccines will be brought into the country through Incheon International Airport on Wednesday.
Separately, another 1.52 million doses of Moderna vaccines will be delivered from a Samsung Biologics Co. plant on the same day. The planned shipments will raise the total amount of COVID-19 vaccines delivered here to 5.22 million.
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