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South Korea expects to see highest daily tally on Tuesday Updated: 2022-01-25 05:41:44 KST

South Korea is expecting to see its highest daily COVID-19 tally so far on Tuesday.
The surge is due to the spread of the Omicron variantwhich is causing cluster infectionsparticularly in Seoul and its surrounding area.
To try and contain the spread, the country is preparing a new Omicron-tailored COVID-19 prevention strategyset to be announced on Wednesday.
For more, we have our reporter Shin Ye-eun with us. Good morning.

Good morning

Ye-eun, let's start off with the number of new COVID-19 infections we're expecting today.

Right Mok-yeon, we're expecting to see a record-high addition on Tuesday.
Up to 9pm Monday, the country logged 7-thousand 4-hundred 37 new infections, the largest amount ever reported during this time frame.
So for the first time ever, we may see the daily tally on Tuesday surpass the 8-thousand mark.
The upsurge in cases comes as the highly contagious Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain.

How much has Omicron been spreading in South Korea since it was identified as the dominant strain?

Regions like Honam, Gyeongbuk and Gangwon particularly have been hit the hardest.
8 out of 10 infections in the Honam region were Omicron.
Gyeongbuk has identified nearly 70 percent of all cases as Omicronwhereas for Gangwon, this number is nearly 60 percent.
Omicron is also responsible for a break out of cluster infections in the greater Seoul area.
It's responsible for nearly 90% of all cases in Pyeongtaek city, Gyeonggi-do province and is rapidly spreading due to cluster outbreaks at a U.S. military base and a nursing home.
During a briefing on Monday, KDCA commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong cited domestic data which proved booster shots play an effective role in fighting against this variant.
Take a listen to what she said.

"We've seen how many neutralizing antibodies one could build after getting a booster shot, or a third extra jab. It turns out, a booster shot can increase antibodies against Omicron by up to 100-times."

Authorities have hinted at changing their current pandemic strategy, to one that is more focused on Omicron. Tell us more.

From Wednesday, South Korea will launch new virus prevention measures that focus on tackling the Omicron variant.
The biggest change is that new virus prevention measures will focus on effectively utilizing limited medical, quarantine resources.
Instead of trying to bring the total number of new infections down, authorities said they would concentrate on treating those considered high-risk using efficient epidemiological research and testing.
This means COVID-19 testing centers will start testing only high-risk groups and suspected infections with a PCR test.
Everyone else will have to test themselves using rapid antigen test kits.
This will shorten the lines and speed up the process at testing centers.
And the latest measure will kick off in Gwangju, Jeollanam-do, and Pyeongtaek city and Anseong city in Gyeonggi-do province from Wednesday.
The faster and more efficient testing method will be expanded nationwide as early as the end of this month or early February.
There will also be a change in the number of days fully vaccinated patients must remain in isolation.
The isolation period will be shortened to a week down from what was originally 10 days.

We're into the third year of the pandemic. Many experts say COVID-19 is endemic. What are experts here saying?

The government is saying that in order for COVID-19 to become endemic, the fatality rate has to go down.
In a briefing on Monday, a top authority from the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, Son Young-raesaid based on the current situation in Korea, it's difficult to predict whether COVID-19 will shift to becoming endemic.
But he said research is continuing on this matter.
As a matter of fact, there is a lot of data showing a drop in the fatality rate among Omicron patients, overseas.
Son Young-rae said Korea could see COVID-19 become endemic, as long as it can be treated like a seasonal flu.
Meanwhile, some local experts said it's important that Korea itself comes up with its own determinants regarding when it can evaluate the COVID-19 situation being endemic.rather than applying indicators used abroad.
One doctor told Yonhap News Agency that unlike the U.S. and UK where many non-vaccinated people obtained immunity through mass outbreaks Korea might see the COVID-19 situation deteriorate because it has a high vaccination rate and relatively smaller scale of infections.

Thank you for your report Ye-eun.
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