(4th LD) S. Korea reports more than 200,000 daily virus cases for 1st time
(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES 2nd para)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 for the first time amid the fast spread of the omicron variant.
According to health authorities and local governments, a total of 204,960 cases had been confirmed nationwide as of 9 p.m., up 71,043 from the tally posted at the same time the previous day, and marked an all-time high.
The previous daily record was set on Feb. 23 at 171,451.
The total number for Tuesday is expected to rise further, as daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
Earlier, the country reported 138,993 new coronavirus infections, including 138,935 local cases, raising the total caseload to 3,273,449, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The tally surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time in mid-February.
The country reported 112 more COVID-19 deaths, slightly down from the previous day when virus-related deaths reached the highest figure of 114.
The accumulated death toll came to 8,170, and the fatality rate was 0.25 percent, according to the KDCA.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients also rose further to 727 on Tuesday, jumping nearly 50 percent compared with a week earlier.
The bed occupancy rate in hospitals' intensive care units for COVID-19 patients has also been on the rise, standing at 48.3 percent as of midnight Monday, up 0.1 percentage point from the same time a day earlier.
The number of patients receiving at-home treatment stood at 792,494, down 4,860 from the previous day.
Of them, some 110,000 are classified as high-risk patients and are under the government's special monitoring, the KDCA said.
The government said the current wave is expected to peak at some 250,000 daily cases in mid-March as the highly contagious omicron variant is raging across the nation.
Amid a continued shortage of staff handling the pandemic, the government decided to temporarily suspend the enforcement of the vaccine pass system starting Tuesday in 11 types of public facilities, including restaurants and cafes.
The government has also lifted the mandatory self-isolation for family members living with COVID-19 patients or those who have come in close contact.
Of the locally transmitted cases reported, Seoul reported 27,885 new cases. The surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western city of Incheon added 39,211 and 8,956 new infections, respectively. Cases from overseas went up 58.
As of Tuesday, 31.50 million people, or 61.4 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.37 million, accounting for 86.5 percent, according to the KDCA.
Some 1.23 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. will arrive in the country Wednesday, the authorities said.
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