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COVID-19 cases expected to top 5,000 on Wed., with Omicron spreading in non-capital regions Updated: 2022-01-19 06:17:06 KST

South Korea could see more than 5-thousand new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as Omicron spreads rapidly in regions outside the capital.
Despite this, the government is looking to loosen vaccine pass rules and add more exemptions.

For more COVID-19 updates, we have our COVID-19 correspondent, Kim Yeon-seung in the studio.
Good morning,Yeon-seung.

Good morning

Now start us off with the latest.
Case numbers are back on the up.

Wednesday's new cases are expected to top 5-thousand.
Up to 9PM Tuesday, there were 4,846 new COVID-19 cases reported nationwide.. jumping about 15-hundred from the day before.
It's also the first time in three weeks that more than 4-thousand infections have been reported on a Tuesday night.

Do officials know what's fueling this spike?

Omicron is spreading rapidly in regions outside the capital, so that may be feeding into the spike.
It's already dominant in Gwangju city, where more than 80 percent of their analyzed case samples are Omicron.
There are also reports of Omicron tipping over 50 percent of the local infections in Jeollabuk-do and Jeollanam-do provinces as well, so Omicron may have already taken over in those regions as well.
Recently, infections outside the capital area have contributed to around 40 percent of local cases, an obvious increase seeing as the figure reported early this month was around 30 percent.
The government said that if daily infections rise to the 5-thousands for several days straight, they're going get ready to shift their medical and prevention response in a way that's more adaptable to Omicron.
They haven't announced the specifics to how the response will change, but it may not be long before we see these changes, because Omicron is expected to become dominant nationwide by this weekend.

Speaking of government response, the government has removed the need for vaccine passes in venues like large stores, movie theaters, and study rooms.
Will there be more changes to vaccine pass enforcement in the future?

Yes, we can expect some more tweaks to the vaccine pass rule.
Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official said Tuesday that the government is looking to provide more exemptions to the vaccine pass rule.
That announcement is due later this week.
Currently, exemptions include people who have already recovered from COVID-19, those who couldn't complete their regimen due to adverse reactions, the immunocompromised, or those who have been recommended by their doctors not to get vaccinated.
There have been some requests regarding adding pregnant women to the exemption list, but the government seemed quite adamant against making that decision.
However, certain people with specific health conditions will be added to the list, and we'll just have to wait to see what changes will be made.

Let's turn to vaccine passes for minors.
There's still confusion over whether 12 to 18 year olds will also be exempt.
Any updates on that front?

Well, the government's original plan was to enforce vaccine passes for those aged 12 to 18 starting from March.
But since the Seoul Administrative Court decided to suspend vaccine passes for underage citizens the government is looking to appeal.
Health authorities are still remain adamant that vaccine passes are needed to protect minors especially at venues like PC rooms, singing rooms, restaurants and cafes.
In fact, the government continues to encourage teenage vaccinations and has even offered to pay compensation to those who suffer side effects.
Education minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a government briefing on Tuesday, that the government will pay up to 5 million Korean Won, or 42-hundred U.S. dollars, to 12 to 18 year olds who show serious adverse reaction within 90 days of inoculation.
The government is also trying help out with students' mental health, and dealing with the so-called 'Coronablues'.
The ministry of Education in 2022 will allocate more than three hundred million U.S. dollars to help to set up programs and provide support to students whose mental health has been affected by the pandemic.
Up to 3 million won or roughly 25-hundred U.S. dollars will also be offered in assistance to students who tried to self-harm or suffered debilitating depression due to the pandemic.

Thank you for that report.
We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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