• S. Korea Records Over 8,000 Daily COVID-19 Cases For First Time
People stand under plastic tents as they queue up for COVID-19 testing in central Seoul. [Photo: Newsis]

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea has recorded more than 8,000 new cases in a day.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency confirmed Tuesday a record high 8,571 new infections from the previous 24-hour period.

By region, the greater Seoul area accounted for 5,196 cases while the rest were from non-capital areas.

The number of coronavirus-positive patients in ICUs decreased by 26 to 392, dropping below 400 for the first time in two months, while 23 more virus-related fatalities pushed the death toll to 6,588.

The latest coronavirus spike comes as the highly transmissible Omicron variant has become dominant in the country.

In an effort to stably manage rising infections and medical resources, the government said it will implement from Wednesday a new virus response system to combat Omicron that will focus on early detection and treatment.

Vulnerable groups, including people over 60, those with underlying illnesses, and individuals who have been in close contact with confirmed COVID patients, will be prioritized for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

People in low-risk groups will take rapid antigen tests.

The quarantine period for vaccinated COVID-19 patients will also be cut down from the current 10 days to seven days.

The KDCA said the measures will first be adopted in areas that have reported higher Omicron cases such as Gwangju, Pyeongtaek and Anseong.

With the Lunar New Year travel season ahead, experts predict Omicron will lead to an exponential rise in cases that could grow to as many as 20,000 a day by early February.

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