▶ SOUTH KOREA HITS FRESH COVID-19 RECORDS
New coronavirus cases in South Korea have surpassed 5,000 for a second straight day, hitting a new all-time high, while hospitals are under mounting stress from a surge in critically ill COVID patients.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency confirmed 5,266 cases in the last 24 hours, including 24 imported from abroad.
A majority of the local transmissions were from the capital region, with Seoul recording a daily record of 2,262 new infections.
The number of severe patients in ICUs increased by 10 to a fresh high of 733.
Meanwhile, 47 people died of COVID-19, pushing the death toll past 3,700.
The government said it will speed up the administration of booster shots and secure more hospital beds over the next four weeks as it works to contain the spread.
More than 80 percent of people in the country have so far been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
▶ KDCA CONFIRMS FIRST OMICRON VARIANT CASES
The country is grappling with the potential spread of Omicron in local communities after confirming its first five cases of the new variant.
The KDCA said the cases include an Incheon couple who returned from a trip to Nigeria on November 24, and one of their acquaintances.
Separately, two women who returned from Nigeria on November 23 were also infected with the variant.
Contact tracing and testing is underway to try and catch cases.
▶ GOVT REIMPOSES QUARANTINE FOR ALL ARRIVALS
In response, the government has decided to reimpose strict screening and a mandatory 10-day quarantine for all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, starting from Friday.
South Korean citizens and foreigners on long-term stay visas will be able to self-isolate at home, while foreigners on short-term stay must go to a government-designated quarantine facility.
The measures will be enforced for the next two weeks, with the possibility of an extension based on the coronavirus situation.
▶ OMICRON LIKELY BEHIND SOUTH AFRICA'S LATEST SURGE
South Africa has recorded a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, which has doubled across the country since Monday.
In the last 24 hours alone, over 8,500 new cases have been recorded.
Health officials say the newly discovered Omicron variant may be fueling the surge although it isn't clear how many of the new cases it accounts for.
The BBC's Nomsa Maseko has the latest.
The Omicron variant has now become dominant in what is the beginning of the fourth wave in South Africa.
There's been a sustained increase in new COVID-19 infections in many parts of the country.
The health department said the increase has been reported in seven of the country’s nine provinces.
There's also been a slight increase in hospital admissions.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said most of the people who have been hospitalized have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization has said the new variant has now been detected in 23 countries around the world.
▶ WHO WARNS AGAINST VACCINE APATHY
The World Health Organization has issued stern warnings on the dangers of vaccination apathy as the Omicron variant pops up in more countries.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing -- a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants."
He also reminded that the Delta variant still "accounts for almost all cases."