• News Update 1/19/2022
▶ HEAVY SNOW BLANKETS SEOUL, CENTRAL REGION

The Korea Meteorological Administration has issued an advisory for heavy snow in Seoul and the surrounding areas.

The weather alert came amid a forecast of more than 5 centimeters of snowfall in a 24-hour period.

Parts of the capital region could get up to 3 centimeters of fresh powder per hour through the evening.

People are encouraged to take public transportation while authorities urge drivers to take extra precautions as roads could be slippery to the snow and freezing conditions.

The KMA also warned that east of Seoul, coastal areas in Gangwon Province could get up to 20 centimeters of heavy snow overnight.

▶ S. KOREA SEES COVID CASES SPIKE AS OMICRON LOOMS

COVID-19 infections and deaths are rising again as health authorities brace for a potential Omicron wave.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has reported 5,805 new coronavirus infections, up 1,734 from the previous day.

All but 374 of the latest were cases of local transmission.

Across South Korea, the number of critical coronavirus patients in intensive care units decreased by 11 for a total 532, continuing a gradual but steady decline.

Meanwhile, 74 more virus-related fatalities were recorded, raising the death toll to 6,452 since the start of the pandemic.

Despite strengthened antivirus measures, including social distancing and the rollout of booster shots, which helped to briefly slow down the coronavirus, cases are mounting again due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, according to health officials.

Data showed the detection rate of Omicron, which stood at 26 percent last week, surpassed 50 percent over the weekend, supporting predictions that it will soon become the dominant version of the coronavirus in the country.

▶ WHO URGES VACCINE EQUITY TO END PANDEMIC

The World Health Organization says the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic could be over this
year if inequities in vaccinations are quickly addressed.

Speaking during a panel discussion on vaccine inequity hosted by the World Economic Forum, Dr. Michael Ryan, head of emergencies at the WHO, explained "we may never end the virus" because such viruses "end up becoming part of the ecosystem."

But he said "we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things that we've been talking about," primarily the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

The U.N. health agency has long criticized the imbalance in vaccinations between rich and poor countries as a catastrophic moral failure.

Fewer than 10 percent of people in lower-income countries have received even one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the WHO.

▶ INTERNATIONAL AID HEADS TO TSUNAMI-HIT TONGA

The United Nations says it is stepping up its response to the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga as communications begin to improve.

A U.N. representative in the Pacific, Jonathan Veitch, said resources had been deployed.

[Clip: Veitch]
"A health team is in Ha'apai now and setting up a temporary clinic. They have some relief items, including water, food and tents, and yesterday, another ship was sent to a second island with additional resources."

He said the evacuation of islands made uninhabitable by the tsunami had begun.

At least three people have been confirmed dead.





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