• News Update 2/16/2022
▶ Omicron Pushes S. Korea's New COVID-19 Cases Past 90,000

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum expressed regret as new COVID-19 cases skyrocketed to over 90,000 despite the public's continued cooperation with efforts to block the virus spread.

In an interagency COVID response meeting today, Kim indicated the government is still stably managing the situation with its preemptive measures.

He emphasized that the medical system hasn't had any major problems yet, adding that they are continuing to roll out booster vaccine shots and secured hospital beds in advance, while expanding at-home treatments for patients.

At the same time, the prime minister urged for those with suspected coronavirus symptoms to get screened immediately.

Kim also reassured the public will have enough self-test kits through the end of next month amid supply concerns.

He said the government will decide whether to adjust current social distancing rules on Friday, after considering both the spread of the omicron variant and damage to people's livelihoods due to tightened antivirus curbs.

▶ Kids Advised To Take Weekly Rapid Antigen Tests

The education ministry said it is advising kindergarten to high school students to take rapid antigen tests at home twice a week before going to school in the upcoming semester.

The non-binding recommendation was issued as part of a virus prevention scheme for schools that are bracing for the spring semester amid a massive Omicron surge.

The ministry said it will distribute 60.5 million rapid antigen test kits for over 6.9 million students and school staff between late this month and the end of March.

▶ KDCA: Medical System Stable, 27% Of COVID ICUs Filled

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 90,443 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours.

The number of critically ill coronavirus patients stood at 313, a majority 83 percent of which are people aged 60 or older.

Officials said hospital resources remain stable with only 27 percent of beds in COVID intensive care units across the country occupied.

Although Omicron seems less likely to cause severe illness or death, the sheer size of the outbreak has health authorities worrying that hospitalizations and fatalities could spike in coming weeks.

Officials are hoping that vaccination programs will help keep the pressure off hospitals.

The KDCA said 58 percent of the country's population of over 51 million has received booster shots.

The government plans to start making fourth vaccine doses available to the elderly, people who are immunocompromised, and other high-risk groups later this month.

▶ US Warns Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Still Possible

U.S. President Joe Biden has warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine remains a distinct possibility.

He said the U.S. has not yet verified any removal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border, despite Moscow's announcement that some forces were pulling back.

He stressed that sanctions were ready to go in the case of an invasion.

[Clip: Biden]
"If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead, the human cost for Ukraine will be immense and the strategic cost for Russia will also be immense. If Russia attacks Ukraine, it will be met with overwhelming international condemnation. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound."

The Kremlin denies planning to attack Ukraine but says Russia's security concerns must be addressed.

▶ Korean Skaters In Top 10 After Women's Short Program

South Korean figure skaters You Young and Kim Ye-lim both finished in the top 10 of the women's short program last night at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The free skate is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. KST.

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