The daily number of new COVID-19 infections in South Korea hit a fresh high Thursday, surpassing 90,000 for the second straight day.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it confirmed 93,045 local transmissions and 90 imported from abroad for a total caseload of 1,645,978.
Fueled by the Omicron variant, there are concerns the daily case count could exceed 100,000 in the days to come and hit 170,000 a day by the end of the month.
Critically ill coronavirus patients in ICUs also rose by 76 to 389 while 36 additional people succumbed to the disease, raising the death toll to 7,238.
Despite the explosive surge in infections, the government is discussing the possibility of easing social distancing rules due to its impact on small businesses.
An announcement on possible adjustments to antivirus curbs is expected on Friday.
▶ Fauci Optimistic About Return To Normal Life
The top infectious disease expert in the United States has said it's time for Americans to start moving back towards normality despite the remaining risks from COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told a Reuters interview that states were facing tough choices.
"There's no perfect solution to this. They're trying to balance the fact that the world and the United States and particularly certain parts of the United States are just up to here with COVID. They just really need to somehow get their life back. You don't want to be reckless and throw everything aside. But, you gotta start inching towards that.”
▶ US: Russian Troops Still At Ukraine Border
The United States says Russia continues to reinforce its military presence around the borders of Ukraine, with as many as 7,000 troops recently deployed.
Satellite images show a new pontoon bridge has been built several kilometers from the Ukrainian border in Belarus where Russian troops have been operating.
The BBC's David Willis reports.
White House sources say that in recent days Russia has added as many as 7,000 troops to the nearly 150,000 that are thought to already be in position near the border with Ukraine.
They say some of those troops arrived within the last few hours.
America's claims echo those by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, who earlier told reporters that as well as increasing its military presence on the border with Ukraine, Russia was sending additional forces.
U.S. officials have warned of the possibility of a so-called false flag operation under which Russia would stage some sort of attack on its own forces and use that as a pretext for invading Ukraine.
▶ Choi Min-Jeong Grabs Gold In Short Track
Short track speed skater Choi Min-jeong defended her title in the women's 1,500 meter race Wednesday at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
She struck gold at Capital Indoor Stadium with a time of 2 minutes and 17.789 seconds for her third medal at the Games.
Earlier, Choi grabbed silver in the 1,000 meter and 3,000 meter relay.
Arianna Fontana of Italy took home silver in the 1,500 meter while Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands earned bronze.
In the men's competition, the team of Hwang Dae-heon, Kwak Yoon-gy, Park Jang-hyuk and Lee June-seo clinched silver in the 5,000 meter relay.
It was South Korea's first medal in the event since 2010.
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