S. Korea reports all-time high of 441,423 daily COVID-19 cases

SEOUL-- South Korea reported 441,423 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new daily record as the country battles through the worst wave of the virus sparked by the omicron variant.

The all-time high was reported as of 9 p.m., with three hours left until the daily tally ends. The total will be announced the following morning.

Earlier Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the country added 362,338 new COVID-19 infections the previous day, mostly locally transmitted, putting the total caseload at 7,228,550.

The previous record was 383,664 cases reported Saturday. The daily counts tend to decline on Mondays due to fewer tests on the weekend before rising sharply toward the end of the week.

The death toll from COVID-19 hit a record high of 293 on Tuesday, up 93 from Monday, with the total at 10,888. The fatality rate came to 0.15 percent.

The number of critically ill patients also reached an all-time high of 1,196, up 38 from the previous day.

South Korea has seen a spike in the COVID-19 caseload since the beginning of this year, with the numbers surging from four digits to six digits in about three weeks last month.

The focus now in the fight against COVID-19 has been about how to bring back everyday life as much as possible while maintaining steps to rein in the virus surge.

"Managing the fatality rate is very important," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, said in a briefing. "The fatality rate for the past four weeks has been lower than 0.1 percent, so the short-term fatality rate is similar to that of the seasonal flu," Sohn said. The fatality rate of seasonal flu stands at 0.05-0.1 percent.

Health authorities forecast the current virus wave will enter its peak between later this week and next week. Sohn said the numbers of critically ill cases and deaths are expected to continue to rise until two to three weeks after the peak.

Health authorities said they would begin to consider readjusting social distancing rules that currently limit business hours till 11 p.m. and private gatherings of up to six people, as those measures are due to end this week.

The government announced children aged between 5 and 11 will be able to receive vaccine shots starting March 31. It began to allow uninfected students and school staff members to attend school in person even if family members who live with them are virus positive.

Of the locally transmitted cases reported Tuesday, 66,067 cases came from Seoul and 102,983 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. The western port city of Incheon reported 20,444 cases. Fifty-five cases came from overseas, raising the total to 30,358.

As of Tuesday, 32.15 million people out of the 52 million population, or 62.7 percent, had received booster shots. Fully vaccinated people came to 44.43 million, representing 86.6 percent, the KDCA said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency