• News Update 1/17/2022

▶ N. KOREA FIRES 2 SHORT-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILES

North Korea is believed to have launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, in its fourth show of force this year.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were fired eastward from an airport in Pyongyang.

The JCS said authorities are further analyzing the tests while the military is maintaining a heightened readiness posture in the case of further provocations.

Japan's Prime Minister's Office also said it detected a possible ballistic missile launch from North Korea.

As talks with the United States remain stalled, North Korea has been pushing forward with its weapons development.

Earlier this month, the Kim Jong-un regime tested two hypersonic missiles in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and on Friday launched train-borne missiles in response to new U.S. sanctions.

▶ KDCA REPORTS OVER 3,000 NEW COVID-19 CASES

South Korean health authorities have reported 3,859 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the last 24 hours and 23 additional virus-related deaths.

Among the new infections, 3,551 were locally transmitted and 308 were imported from overseas.

The number of critically ill coronavirus patients in intensive care units across the country stood at 579, dropping below the 600 mark for the first time in 54 days.

The decrease in severe COVID cases comes as booster shot coverage surpassed 45 percent, according to the KDCA, with nearly 85 percent of the South Korean population fully vaccinated.

▶ GOVT TO SUSPEND VACCINE PASS FOR 'LOW-RISK' FACILITIES

The government will suspend on Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine pass system for some "low-risk" facilities, including supermarkets, department stores, private academies, study rooms, movie theaters and museums nationwide.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol explained during an interagency coronavirus response meeting that the pass system will be eased for these facilities since there is a lower chance of transmission due to the enforcement of mandatory masks indoors.

The move comes after a Seoul court blocked the vaccine pass mandate at big box retailers as well as for students at educational facilities.

The ruling came amid protests against the system, which critics say discriminates against those who choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

▶ OXFAM PUSHES BILLIONAIRES TAX TO FUND VACCINES

Anti-poverty organization Oxfam has called for governments to impose a one-time 99 percent tax on the world's billionaires and use the money to fund expanded production of COVID-19 vaccines for the poor.

The ranks of the super-rich have swelled during the pandemic thanks to ample financial stimulus that pumped up stocks, according to the group.

Meanwhile, poor countries have suffered more than their share from COVID-19 because of unequal access to vaccines, which have mostly gone to rich nations

▶ TONGA ASSESSES DAMAGE AFTER VOLCANIC ERUPTION

New Zealand has sent an Air Force plane to Tonga to assess the damage caused by a massive undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami over the weekend.

There are no official accounts of casualties, but reports say a British woman, a resident in the capital, was washed away.

Shairana Ali is the head of operations in Fiji for the aid agency Save the Children.

[Clip: Ali]
"The Tongan disaster management office together with the Tongan Red Cross Society is on the ground doing the initial damage assessments and our thoughts and prayers are obviously with all Tongan brothers and sisters and we know that as assessments continue, there may be more casualties reported, which is very unfortunate and quite tragic."




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