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(LEAD) New COVID-19 cases reach fresh high of 54,941 amid omicron surge

All News 10:18 February 12, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details from para 6; RECASTS lead para)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 infections reached a fresh daily high Saturday, as the highly transmissible omicron variant continued to spread fast across the nation.

The country reported 54,941 new COVID-19 infections, including 53,797 local cases, raising the total to 1,294,205, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It marks the third day in a row that the daily tally exceeded the 50,000 level. A total of 53,926 cases were reported Friday.

The health authorities have warned that the figure could reach 170,000 by around the end of this month, though it is too early to say if it will be the peak of the omicron surge.

The death toll from COVID-19 came to 7,045, up 33 from Friday.

The National Institute of Mathematical Sciences, South Korea's state-run think tank, estimated daily new cases could even reach as high as 360,000 by early next month.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 275, up four from a day earlier, the KDCA said. The daily tally has stayed in the 200s for 15 days in a row.

At-home patients surged to 199,261, up 22,247 from a day earlier, due to the fast growth in the number of people with mild or no symptoms due to the omicron variant.

Since Thursday, health authorities have been making daily checkup calls only to high-risk patients in a move to alleviate the workload of health workers and government officials, and to better deal with the current pandemic trends.

The high-risk group includes COVID-19 patients in their 60s and older, citizens in their 50s and with underlying health issues, and others with compromised immune systems.

Low-risk patients, those aged 49 or younger, are left to monitor their conditions by themselves and contact local hospitals if they worsen.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul reported 15,960, followed by Seoul with 13,198 and the western port city of Incheon with 5,059, the KDCA said.

Daily new cases from overseas fell by 16 from a day earlier to 113, it said.

As of Saturday, 28.94 million people, or 57 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.2 million people, accounting for 86.1 percent.

People wait in line to receive tests at a COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr
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