• News Update 2/15/2022
▶ S. Korea Sets New Daily COVID-19 Record

South Korea has recorded another high of over 57,000 new COVID-19 cases as the extremely transmissible Omicron variant continued to spread in regions across the country.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency confirmed 57,012 new locally transmitted infections and 165 imported cases in the last 24-hour period.

The number of critically ill coronavirus patients in ICUs increased by eight to 314.

The COVID death toll rose by 61 from the previous day to 7,163.

Health authorities have warned that new cases could hit 170,000 a day by the end of the month.

▶ Govt Pushes COVID Vaccine For Kids 5-11

The South Korean government is pushing for kids aged 5 to 11 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as schools gear up for the new semester.

Kwon Geun-yong, head of the vaccination management team at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said an inoculation plan will be drawn up as soon as vaccines are authorized for use in young children by the drug safety ministry.

Speaking on TBS FM's "Kim OuJoon's News Factory," Kwon said it's likely children 11 and under will begin receiving shots after the start of the spring semester in March.

He said, "The incidence rate per 100,000 teenagers is 4,000, and 3,600 for those aged 0-9, which is higher than that of adults and the elderly."

Currently, youths between 12 and 17 in South Korea can get vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, the Ministry of Education said it was considering requiring kindergarten and elementary school students to take rapid COVID-19 tests at home before going to school in a measure to protect children amid the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron COVID-19 variant.

▶ Presidential Campaigning Kicks Off

South Korea has kicked off its presidential campaign period for a 22-day run, allowing candidates to rally on streets and run ads on air in a final appeal to voters ahead of the election on March 9.

A total of 14 people registered their candidacies with the National Election Commission.

The election watchdog said poll results cannot be released from March 3 to prevent the results from affecting voters' choices.

This will be the first presidential election where 18-year-olds have the right to vote.

COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine will also be able to vote on Election Day from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. after regular polling closes.

▶ US, UK See Room For Russia-Ukraine Diplomacy

The leaders of the United States and Britain say a crucial window for diplomacy still remains to persuade Russia to step back from its threats on Ukraine.

Speaking over telephone, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed a deal was still possible, but warned the situation remained fragile.

The BBC's Barbara Plett Usher reports.

A Downing Street spokesman said Boris Johnson and President Biden emphasized that the U.S. and EU response to any military action would lead to a protracted crisis for Russia.

But they also agreed that a crucial window for diplomacy remained and both repeated their support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On the Kremlin's signal that it was prepared to press ahead with talks, the State Department noted that there had been no deescalation in its troop buildup.

That would be necessary for the success of any negotiations, it said.

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