South Korea again broke its daily records for COVID-19 infections and deaths, and confirmed three more cases of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls.
The 5,352 new cases reported by the Seoul-based Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency yesterday marked the third time this week that the daily tally exceeded 5,000.
The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 people died in the most-recent 24-hour period of tallying, while the 752 people in serious or critical conditions were also an all-time high.
Amid the Delta variant-driven surge, there is also concern about the local spread of the Omicron variant.
The country’s Omicron caseload is now at nine after the agency confirmed three more cases.
The new cases include the wife, mother-in-law and a friend of a man who apparently caught Omicron from a couple he drove home from the airport after they arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24.
The couple’s teenage child and two other women who also traveled to Nigeria have also been infected with Omicron.
Officials say the number of Omicron cases could rise, as some of the people had attended a church gathering involving hundreds of people on Sunday last week.
While the emergence of Omicron has triggered global alarm and pushed governments around the world to tighten their borders, scientists say it remains unclear whether the new variant is more contagious, more likely to evade the protection provided by vaccines or more likely to cause serious illnesses than previous versions of the virus.
Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people are to be banned in Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by Delta.
In a bid to fend off Omicron, South Korea has required all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s infections surged to a record 3 million on Friday, official figures showed.
The South African government reported 16,055 new cases over a 24-hour period, taking the cumulative laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,004,203.
“This increase represents a 24.3 percent positivity rate,” the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a daily update.
The majority of new cases reported on Friday, 72 percent, were detected in Gauteng Province, the most populous of the country’s provinces.
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