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Two years of COVID-19 in S. Korea: Anti-virus curbs, vaccines and mutant strains Updated: 2022-01-20 17:13:59 KST

January twentieth, 2020 the day COVID-19 first entered South Korea.
In the two years since then, over 700-thousand people have been infected and roughly six thousand five hundred have died.
The nation's very first infection came from abroad a Chinese woman who entered the country via Incheon International Airport.
Not long after, the first wave of cases began in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province and the city of Daegu, where a cluster infection at a religious cult led to hundreds of daily cases.
Then in the summer, the epicenter moved to Seoul and the surrounding area fueled by clusters at a church in the capital and from public demonstrations in the heart of the city.
That came before the virus spread nationwide in the winter months during the third wave with daily tallies hitting the four digits as health authorities scrambled to contain the virus through strict social distancing guidelines.
Vaccines finally started rolling out in late February, though, raising hopes that a gradual return to normal would soon be within reach by achieving the ultimate goal at that time: herd immunity.

"It would mean that even the Delta variant can, theoretically, be overcome without masks, gathering bans and business restrictions."

But little did health authorities know the worst was yet to come.
Even with many vaccinated, infections spiked in July of last year as the Delta variant surged across the country leaving hospitals in need of more beds, businesses struggling to survive, and schools unable to hold classes in person.
High vaccination rates drove the government to initiate the shift to the so-called "living with COVID-19" scheme in November but that abruptly came to a halt the next month as the Omicron variant emerged and cases soared to above seven thousand.

"We must break the chain of infections in the community and reduce the risk of contracting the virus."

With daily caseloads still lingering in the thousands, the highly transmissible mutation is expected to become the dominant strain in the country within this week and authorities fear a fifth wave may be on the horizon.

"The pandemic entered a new phase with the rise of Omicron The scale is larger than ever. I call it 'season three.' Humanity's longing for everything to end with season three but if a new variant pops up, yet another season may be upon us."

Game-changing oral treatments, namely Pfizer's Paxlovid pill, are currently being prescribed though
something the nation is counting on, along with booster shots, to eventually bring all the chaos to an end.

"In the end, it is the combination of natural immunity after infection and artificial immunity after inoculation that can boost the population's immunity to gradually contain the pandemic."

In a statement on Thursday, President Moon Jae-in thanked the country's healthcare workers and the public for persevering through the crisis and asked for their continued cooperation.
Han Seong-woo, Arirang News.
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