The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has reported a jump in new coronavirus cases amid early signs of an Omicron surge.
A total of 6,603 new COVID-19 cases had been recorded in the previous 24 hours.
Among them, 6,357 were locally acquired infections, nearly 64 percent of which were from the greater Seoul area.
The number of criticially ill COVID patients in ICUs decreased by 44 to 488, while virus-related fatalities rose by 28, according to the KDCA.
More than 19,000 people with COVID-19 were also said to be recovering at home.
The government said it is in "preparation mode" to tackle an imminent surge in new infections fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, and will go into "full response mode" when the daily caseload exceeds 7,000, which is expected in the coming days.
Tightened social distancing rules, including a six-person cap on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. business curfew on restaurants and cafes, will be enforced until February 6.
▶ Seoul Stresses Diplomacy For Peninsula Peace
The government has emphasized that dialogue and diplomacy are key to building peace on the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's thinly veiled threat to scrap a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
The North held a high-profile politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party the previous day and decided to consider resuming "all temporarily-suspended" activities to brace for a "long-term confrontation" with the United States, according to Pyongyang's state media.
In response, the South Korean government said it is closely monitoring the North's moves with "a sense of tension" as it closely coordinates with other countries "to keep the situation on the Korean Peninsula under stable control."
▶ Investor Jim Rogers Eyes S. Korea's Presidential Race
South Korea's presidential election, scheduled for March 9, is drawing regional and global attention for what changes it may lead to for Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Eyeing the country's potential is renowned American investor Jim Rogers, who says he is very keen on the Korean Peninsula, including inter-Korean relations, economic growth and investment opportunities.
Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Fund, will hold a virtual meeting Thursday with Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung to discuss the future of South Korea.
Ahead of the event, Rogers spoke with TBS eFM's "This Morning" show and gave a preview of what he and Lee might discuss.
Rogers, emphasized he does not endorse any candidate, but gave the opinion that prosperity is likely an important issue for voters.
"I'm not Korean and so I can't tell people how to vote. But I would certainly look for prosperity to be a very major thing. I would look for a new country and new century, a new world for Korea, which you could have. And how do we get that? That would be the thing that I would be the most worried about...You're not having babies in South Korea and that's because of the uncertainty and the lack of great prosperity. That could all change very dramatically, very quickly."
▶ US Warns Russia Against Ukraine Invasion
U.S. President Joe Biden said he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine but has warned that Washington will impose significant harm on Moscow in response.
In a news conference, Biden said he feared a Russian attack on its neighbor would result in a conflict that could get out of hand.
He warned Vladimir Putin of sanctions on a scale he had never seen before if he invaded Ukraine.
"I think he still does not want any full-blown war. Do I think he'll test the West, test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he'll pay a serious and dear price for it. If he doesn't think now, it will cost him what it will cost him and I think he will regret having done it."
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▶ S. Korea In Preparation Mode For Omicron Wave