Daily infections back above 4,000 in 6 days amid lingering omicron woes

SEOUL-- South Korea's daily coronavirus cases bounced back to above 4,000 for the first time in six days Wednesday, putting health authorities on high alert over a possible resurgence amid omicron concerns.

The country added 4,388 new COVID-19 infections, including 4,007 local infections, raising the total caseload to 674,868, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Wednesday's figure was up 1,291 from a day earlier and down 53 from the same day last week.

Health authorities said around 70 people who attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week had tested positive for COVID-19 as of midnight Tuesday.

The country reported 52 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 6,166, according to the health authorities. The fatality rate came to 0.91 percent.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients stood at 749, staying below 800 for the third straight day.

As of 9 p.m., the country had added 3,485 new COVID-19 cases, down 302 from the same time the previous day, according to health authorities and city governments. The greater Seoul area accounted for 64.5 percent of the cases.

Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

The government has reimposed toughened antivirus restrictions since mid-December after daily infections soared to nearly 8,000 under the eased "living with COVID-19" scheme.

The current antivirus curbs, set to be in effect until Sunday, include a four-person cap on private gatherings across the nation and a 9 p.m. business hour curfew on cafes and restaurants.

The government held a session Wednesday to discuss whether to relax social distancing rules again from next week to help ease the burden on citizens and small businesses as the daily caseload has dropped in recent weeks.

But the current curbs will likely be extended for two or more weeks as a majority of participants in the meeting reportedly expressed concerns about relaxing them as the omicron variant is spreading quickly. The government will announce a decision on the matter on Friday.

The KDCA said the first batch of U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc.'s Paxlovid oral pills for 21,000 people will arrive in South Korea on Thursday, with plans to bring in another 10,000 by the end of this month.

The country will begin prescribing and administering the oral medication Friday, starting with patients with a weak immune system or those over the age of 65 receiving treatment at home or at residential medical centers.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 973, while 1,567 came from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 243 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.

The number of cases from overseas came to an all-time high of 381, raising the total caseload to 19,800.

As of Wednesday, 43.22 million people, or 84.2 percent of the country's 52 million population, have been fully vaccinated, and 21.81 million, or 42.5 percent, have received booster shots, the health authorities said.

The KDCA said 462,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines are expected to arrive at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday, bringing the accumulated vaccine arrivals this year to 920,000.

Source: Yonhap News Agency