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SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) — Daily COVID-19 cases in South Korea top 17,000 for the third day in a row Monday as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads rapidly amid the annual holiday exodus. of the Lunar New Year.
The country reported 17,085 new COVID-19 infections, including 16,850 local cases, bringing the total to 845,709, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
It inched down from 17,532 cases the day before, ending a record six-day streak that began Tuesday.
The death toll from COVID-19 reached 6,755, 23 more than on Sunday. The mortality rate stood at 0.80 percent.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 277, remaining unchanged from the previous day.
Health authorities said the detection rate for the omicron strain reached 80 percent last week, well above the 50.3 percent reported the previous week.
The country added 7,010 more omicron cases over the past week, bringing the total to 16,879, the KDCA said. The mortality rate of the omicron variant is 0.15 percent.
Health officials said it took only five weeks for omicron to account for 80 percent of the country’s COVID-19 infections, but its death and severity rates are much lower than those of the delta strain.
A revised virus response system went into effect on Saturday to tackle the wave of omicrons that has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country.
Some 250 testing stations installed in public health centers and large hospitals will adopt rapid antigen self-tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. People can choose which one they want to take.
People over the age of 60 or in high-risk groups, such as those with underlying diseases, will be prioritized for PCR testing.
Starting Thursday, local hospitals and clinics will also administer self-test kits.
The KDCA said the revised regimen is designed to minimize critical cases and deaths, while preventing overload and collapse of the medical system.
The system will expand to the entire country after the three-day Lunar New Year holiday that will last until Wednesday.
Of the locally transmitted cases on Monday, the Gyeonggi province surrounding Seoul reported 5,105, followed by Seoul with 4,193 and the western port city of Incheon with 1,226.
As of Monday, 27.2 million people, or 53.1 percent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots, the KDCA said. The number of fully vaccinated people reached 44 million people, accounting for 86 percent.