▶ S. KOREA REPORTS RECORD HIGH CORONAVIRUS CASES
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum has said the COVID-19 situation in South Korea is worse than expected, especially in the greater Seoul area, home to around half of the population.
Kim said authorities should consider implementing emergency measures in the capital region to block the virus from spreading further.
He made the comments as the daily coronavirus case tally breached the 4,000 mark for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
He said, "Our gradual return to normal life has faced its first hurdle," referring to the "living with COVID" scheme that began this month.
While Kim expressed confidence in the government's ability to overcome the current crisis, he called for people, particularly seniors, to get booster shots amid waning efficacy and rising breakthrough cases.
The prime minister also stressed that everyone must keep wearing masks and getting tested voluntarily to protect themselves and others.
▶ CRITICAL PATIENTS IN ICU CONTINUE TO RISE
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported that another 35 lives were taken by the virus in the last 24 hours, while the number of critically ill patients hit a fresh high of 586.
Despite high vaccination rates, health authorities have emphasized that vaccines alone are not enough to combat COVID threats.
Over 82 percent of people in the country have received their first shots and 79 percent have been fully vaccinated.
South Korea planned to move to the second phase of its gradual return to normal life in mid-December, but authorities have warned the country may not be able to do so if the current trend continues.
▶ NEW ZEALAND BORDERS CLOSED UNTIL NEXT YEAR
New Zealand says it will not reopen to foreign travelers for at least another five months.
The country's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealanders stranded in Australia could return home from mid-January and Kiwis traveling from elsewhere would be allowed in a month later.
But foreign nationals must wait until the end of April.
The Pacific nation closed its borders in March last year, requiring all international arrivals to undergo two weeks of hotel quarantine.
That period was recently cut to seven days.
▶ APPLE SUES ISRAELI FIRM FOR TARGETING USERS
Apple says it's suing the Israeli cyber firm NSO Group and its parent company for allegedly targeting users with spyware.
NSO's Pegasus technology has reportedly been used to monitor the phones of rights activists and journalists.
The BBC's James Clayton has the details.
Apple prides itself on its privacy.
It's a major selling point for its devices. It was highly worrying then, and potentially damaging to the company, when it emerged that Apple products could be hacked without users' knowledge or consent.
The Israeli company NSO Group has always said its software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists, and it's made available to military and intelligence agencies from countries with good human rights records.
Apple says it's suing to prevent further abuse and harm to its users.
▶ BTS GETS ONE GRAMMY NOMINATION
BTS has received a Grammy nomination for best pop duo/group performance for the second year in a row.
The global sensation was named as a contender for its megahit "Butter" in a virtual announcement Tuesday.
But the record-smashing group was excluded from the coveted record and song of the year categories, even though "Butter" spent 10 weeks atop Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Fans and even critics are calling the sole nomination one of the biggest Grammy nomination snubs this year.