(ATTENTION: UPDATES with details in the last 6 paragraphs; ADD second photo)
SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) — Daily coronavirus cases in South Korea rose to more than 6,000 for the first time in 27 days on Thursday, amid growing concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of the virus before Lunar New Year holidays.
The country added 6,603 new COVID-19 infections, including 6,357 local infections, bringing the total number of cases to 712,503, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Health authorities are on high alert over a possible spike in infections as many people travel for family gatherings during the Lunar New Year holidays that start at the end of this month.
The number of daily cases has remained below 6,000 since Dec. 24, when it stood at 6,233, through Wednesday. Thursday marks the second anniversary of the first coronavirus case in South Korea.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 488 on Thursday. The country reported 28 deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 6,480. The fatality rate was 0.91 percent, the KDCA said.
The number of imported cases was counted at 246, bringing the total number of imported cases to 22,551. He said.
The spike in daily cases came as the KDCA on Tuesday lifted the vaccine pass-through program at various types of multi-use facilities, including department stores, big discount stores, movie theaters and specialty schools across the country.
Still, the vaccination pass scheme remains in place in facilities such as cafeterias, restaurants, nightclubs, closed gyms, karaoke establishments, Internet cafes and public toilets, the health agency said.
The program requires individuals to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results upon entering the multi-use facility. It has been in place since November, when the number of daily infections soared to nearly 8,000.
On Monday, the government raised the limit on the size of private gatherings to six from the previous four. But he extended the 9:00 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes, in place since mid-December, for another three weeks until February 6.
The move came amid growing concerns about a dramatic rise in infections as the highly transmissible omicron variant has spread at a fast pace and many people are expected to travel for family gatherings over the Lunar New Year holidays. starting at the end of this month.
As of Thursday, 43.67 million people, or 85.1 percent of the country’s 52 million people, have been fully vaccinated, and 24.21 million, or 47.2 percent, have received vaccines. booster, the KDCA said.