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S. Korea to report around 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thurs; confirms first cases of Omicron variant Updated: 2021-12-02 05:44:13 KST

We start with the latest on the coronavirus situation in South Korea.
The country continues to set grim milestones day after day, as daily COVID-19 infections skyrocket.
Adding to concerns is the confirmation of the first cases of the (oh-mee-cron)Omicron variant in the country.
For more on this and other related updates,.. joining us is our reporter Choi Min-jung, good morning to you.

Good morning.

Min-jung, let's start with today's figures, will the daily tally hit another high today?

Well, we did see another record-high number of infections from midnight to 9 P.M. yesterday.

Given that South Korea reported more than 4-thousand 3-hundred cases in that period, we are expecting to see cases hover around the 5-thousand mark once again.
This is also a jump of 4-hundred 60 cases over the same time from the day before.
What's also troubling is the increasing fatality rate.
If you compare the data from August and November, the risk of dying from COVID-19 nearly tripled, from 0.3-6 to 0.9-3 percent.
This comes despite 80-percent of the total population now being fully vaccinated against the virus.

Making matters more concerning,.. we hear South Korea officially confirmed its first cases of the (oh-mee-cron)Omicron variant.

That's right, Mark. Authorities confirmed five cases of the Omicron variant on Wednesday.

A married couple in their 40s contracted the variant after visiting Nigeria in mid-November.
Their friend was also infected with the variant,.. and the results for their son, who is suspected to be infected as well,.. will come out on Thursday.
Health officials are on high alert as the couple was fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine back in October,.. making them exempt from self-quarantine after arriving in Korea.
Meanwhile, their friend and son were in quarantine after making contact with the couple,.. as neither of them had been vaccinated.
Officials say that the couple and their friend are experiencing no specific symptoms,.. other than respiratory symptoms and muscle pain.

Apart from the three, two more people, have also been confirmed to have been infected with the Omicron variant.
The variant was detected in two unvaccinated women in their 50s, living in Gyeonggi-do Province.
They also traveled to Nigeria in mid-November,.. and are now being treated at their homes.
Besides the five who tested positive for the variant, there's a total of four more suspected cases,.. waiting for results.

But what's most concerning is that this may be the start of a potential fifth wave.
Over the past month, some 5-thousand people entered South Korea from Africa and Europe, where the mutation is spreading quickly.
Experts say transmissions of the mutated strain may have already begun to spread in the local community.

Well then, how is the government handling the current situation? We hear stronger measures have been implemented to tackle the spread

That's right. All travelers arriving in Korea,.. regardless of their nationality AND their vaccination status,.. will have to quarantine for TEN days.

The new measure will be implemented on Friday, and last for the next two weeks.
Koreans and foreigners living in Korea must go through self-quarantine at home, and get a PCR test three times. once before arrival, another after arrival, and finally once before being released from quarantine.
Foreigners who are visiting short term will be quarantined in temporary facilities provided by the government.

Also starting Friday, the entry of non-Koreans departing from Nigeria will be banned.
But Koreans and foreigners who are staying long-term,.. will be permitted to enter the country and will be required to quarantine at temporary facilities for ten days and take four PCR tests.
The same measures had already been put in place for eight other countries including South Africa.

The government has also decided to suspend direct flights from Ethiopia for two weeks, starting Saturday.
But the country will be organizing separate flights for the safe return of South Korean nationals.

On top of that, those who have come into contact with a patient infected with the Omicron variant,.. will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
There is no exception for fully vaccinated people.
Currently, fully inoculated people are not required to quarantine even after making close contact with a COVID-19 patient.

Thank you Min-jung for your report. We'll see you again for our newscast tomorrow.

Thank you.
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