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Cases expected to top 7,000 by weekend with Omicron raging
Updated: 2022-01-20 05:57:46 KST
We begin with another uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, even with all the anti virus restrictions in place.
New infections are expected to be close to 6-thousand on Thursday, and 7-thousand by the weekend.
With Omicron spreading fast, health authorities are encouraging people to get their booster shots.

For more we have our COVID-19 correspondent Kim Yeon-seung with us.
Welcome Yeon-seung.

Good morning.

So fill us in on the latest tally.
Another uptick is expected today?

Yes it is, Thursday's tally may top 6-thousand.
Up until Wednesday 9PM health authorities logged 5,249 cases.
That's a jump of 400 cases from Tuesday night, and 17-hundred cases higher than the same time last week.
The numbers are rising quickly.
But they're expected to push even higher.
Health authorities are expecting infection tallies to top 7-thousand sometime tomorrow or this weekend.

Seven-thousand cases is a sharp rise in a short amount of time.
Could we be seeing new record daily cases before too long?

Well it is possible.
The all-time high daily tally was recorded last year on December 15th, and stood around 7,8-hundred and-50.
With Omicron taking over to be the dominant strain, authorities are fully expecting cases to get close to that number or even surpass it.
They say that in three weeks, 80 to 90 percent of infections will be from the Omicron strain.
Daegu city, which was the epicenter of the virus back in early 2020, is once again witnessing record numbers.
It found more than 360 cases of infection in their area up to 9PM Wednesday, the highest seen since March 2020.

Right so authorities have already pinned Omicron as the reason behind the resurgence of cases.
And the variant is already spreading like wildfire in certain regions in South Korea.
Tell us more about that.

Well, in Gwangju city, for example, around 80 percent of their local cases have been identified as being Omicron.
The area's kindergartens, nurseries, and child care facilities are closing their doors for two weeks from next Monday.
In the Jeolla-do provinces, Omicron makes up close to 60 percent of the cases and has replaced Delta as the dominant strain.
In Gyeongsang-buk do province, Omicron makes up around 37 percent of the cases and in Gangwon-do, it's at around 31 percent.
Omicron is also quickly closing in on the capital region.
Pyeongtaek city in Gyeonggi-do province found 90 percent of their analyzed local case samples to be Omicron.
The area ordered an administrative order for military personnel in the area's U.S. army base to get PCR tested.

Well, what can people do at an individual level to try and stem the spread?

Vaccinations.
Authorities cannot stress enough the importance of getting third shots.
In fact, some of the groups that have a relatively low rate of third-doses of vaccinations are also seeing a rise in cases.
For example, infections among foreigners have been rising since late December, and they make up around 14 percent of recent cases, even though they make up around three to four percent of the total population.
A little over a quarter of the foreign population have received a booster shot, which is comparably lower than share among the domestic population.
The government say that COVID-19 jabs are the best defense we have on hand against Omicron.

Speaking of vaccinations, government authorities are making changes to the vaccine pass rule, is that right?
Tell us more about that.

Right, so before going on, I would like to note that authorities are providing more leeway to the vaccine passes is in no way an attempt to water down the importance of vaccinations.
Authorities are doing this to tackle inconvenience and confusion.
So vaccine pass exemptions have been extended to people who couldn't complete their regimen because they've shown an adverse reaction or were hospitalized after the first dose.

Hasn't that always been the criteria for people to be exempt from these vaccine pass rules?

Right, but before the causality between the reaction and the vaccines had to be proven.
But there were a lot of complaints here and there, because it's really difficult to prove any causal link between the two.
Now, the government accepts that a free pass is needed for people who showed a severe adverse reaction or were hospitalized within 6 weeks of inoculation, even if they don't have solid proof of a link to the vaccine.
With this move, the free pass will be extended to roughly 12-thousand to 17-thousand people.

Ok thank you for that report, Yeon-seung.
We'll see you back in the studio tomorrow
Reporter : winning@arirang.com