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South Korea extends distancing curbs forward of holidays amid Omicron considerations

SEOUL: South Korea will prolong harder social distancing guidelines for 3 extra weeks amid considerations over a looming wave of the extremely contagious Omicron coronavirus variant particularly forward of the Lunar New 12 months holidays, officers mentioned on Friday (Jan 14).

The curbs had been restored a month in the past simply six weeks after being eased underneath a “dwelling with COVID-19” scheme, as record-breaking numbers of latest circumstances and critically unwell sufferers threatened to saturate the nation’s medical system.

Day by day tallies have dropped since, with 4,542 new circumstances for Thursday from a peak of just about 8,000 in mid-December, however the downtrend appeared to backside out this week due partly to a surge in Omicron infections.

“The symptoms have improved roughly however the variety of new circumstances are not reducing this week,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum instructed an intra-agency assembly, noting that Omicron’s share of domestically transmitted infections has reached 20 per cent in simply two weeks.

The prolonged curbs will final till Feb 6, together with a 9pm curfew for eating places, cafes and bars, however the restrict on non-public gatherings will probably be raised to 6 absolutely vaccinated folks from 4.

Well being officers have warned that with out stricter distancing curbs Omicron would develop into dominant inside two weeks, probably sending day by day tallies as much as an unprecedented 20,000 in February and 30,000 in March.

The Lunar New 12 months break begins on Jan 29, and usually tens of tens of millions of Koreans would journey country-wide for household gatherings throughout one of many nation’s predominant holidays, elevating the dangers of contagion.

As a part of efforts to pre-empt Omicron’s unfold, South Korea started treating sufferers with Pfizer’s antiviral tablets on Friday, changing into the primary Asian nation to take action.

The federal government mentioned on Friday it’ll submit a supplementary price range value about 14 trillion gained (US$11.Eight billion) to parliament later this month to assist small companies and the self-employed hit by the pandemic, including to a report 607.7 trillion gained (US$511.5 billion) price range for 2022.

The nation of 52 million folks has largely been a COVID-19 mitigation success story, with 683,566 complete infections and 6,259 deaths, thanks mainly to masks, distancing and aggressive testing and tracing.

Almost 95 per cent of South Korean adults have been absolutely vaccinated and greater than 50 per cent have acquired a booster shot.

South Korea has additionally rolled out one of many area’s most stringent vaccine move mandates, underneath which unvaccinated folks can solely dine out alone, or use takeout or supply companies. 

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