• News Update 1/14/2022
▶ S. KOREA EXTENDS ANTIVIRUS RULES UNTIL FEB. 6

South Korea will extend strict social distancing rules for three more weeks as it braces for a surge in new coronavirus infections fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday that antivirus measures, including the 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and cafes, will remain in place until February 6, covering the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday period.

But the four-person limit on private gatherings will be increased to six.

Kim also warned that the virus situation in the country is still serious, especially with the global spread of Omicron, which experts say is likely to cause an explosive surge in the coming weeks.

The announcement came as 4,542 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the country, including a record 409 imported infections, along with 49 additional virus-related deaths.

The prime minister urged people to avoid travel and gatherings during the Lunar New Year holiday to protect their family and curb the spread of infections.

▶ HALF OF ADULTS BOOSTED AGAINST COVID-19

More than half of adults in South Korea have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

As of Thursday, more than 22.4 million adults were inoculated.

For the entire population the rate stood at 43.7 percent and 82.7 percent for senior citizens aged 60 and up.

Meanwhile, 86.6 percent of the population have gotten at least one dose while 84.5 percent have been fully vaccinated.

▶ GOVT PLANS EXTRA BUDGET FOR COVID LOSSES

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government plans to propose another extra budget of 14 trillion won in an effort to support small business owners hit hard by the prolonged pandemic.

Hong said the supplementary budget will be created by tapping last year's excess tax revenue of 10 trillion won.

The government also plans to provide an additional 3 million won to merchants who have suffered falls in revenue.

South Korea drew up two extra budgets totaling some 50 trillion won last year to provide support to small merchants and cash handouts to people in the bottom 88 percent income bracket.

▶ TOP US COURT BLOCKS BIDEN'S VACCINE MANDATE

The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked a key part of President Joe Biden's strategy to combat the pandemic.

It rejected the policy of making COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing mandatory at large firms.

The nine-member court was divided along political lines.

The BBC's Anthony Zurcher reports.

[Reporter]
In the end, Joe Biden's vaccine mandate stood and fell based on how the Supreme Court interpreted the federal laws the president relied on for his actions.

The justices noted that Mr. Biden could convince Congress to enact broader vaccine mandates.

But that seems unlikely given unified Republican opposition.

In a statement, Mr. Biden said he was pleased that his actions have helped reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans to under 35 million but added he will continue to encourage states and employers to issue vaccine requirements on their own.

▶ BOK RAISES KEY RATE TO PRE-PANDEMIC LEVEL

The Bank of Korea has raised its key policy rate to a pre-pandemic level of 1.25 percent as it grapples with persistent inflation concerns and seeks to normalize protracted loose monetary measures amid the economic recovery.


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