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South Korea expects to see Friday's caseload stay near 14-thousand mark Updated: 2022-01-28 05:43:55 KST

Our top story this morning.
The Omicron strain of COVID-19 continues to spread in South Korea, leaving daily caseloads well above the 10-thousand mark.
This comes ahead of the Lunar New Year holidaywhen millions of people in South Korea are expected to travel to country to visit their relatives.
For more on this and related updates, we have our reporter Shin Ye-eun with us. Good morning.

Good morning.

Start us off with how many new infections we're expecting today.

Mokyeon we're expecting to see Friday's figure stay near the 14-thousand mark.
Up to 9 pm yesterday, we recorded 11-thousand 804 infections.
This was a drop of 6-hundred 6 from a day agobut still quite a large number compared to just four days ago when only some 7-thousand were logged during the same time.
Daily infections have been doubling faster than authorities had forecast.
During a special briefing held Thursday to explain what the Omicron variant entails KDCA commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said though the strain is quite concerning it's not to an extent that it threatens medical capacity.

"After analyzing the regions in Korea hit hardest by Omicron, we realized that the number of infections increased exponentially but the number of those in a critical condition was actually lower than the average tally in the country. We've seen the number of critically ill come down and have restored stability in our medical capacity with enough hospital beds available."

This briefing was about explaining more about Omicron, and how South Korea plans to tackle it. What were some of the key takeaways?

Experts who participated in Thursday's briefing said Omicron isn't as fatal compared to other variants.
It's actually comparable to a seasonal flubut with symptoms a bit more severe.
Citing a study from the UK, experts explained most people who were infected with Omicron reported having a cough, runny nose, headache, fatigue, and sore throat.
While Omicron may not cause people to develop severe illnessesit can still weigh heavily on our medical capacity, given that it's twice as transmissible as the Delta variant.

There were also questions in regards to whether our current testing kits were effective enough.
Especially since we've seen 4.5 percent of imported Omicron cases classified as "Stealth Omicron."
Like its namethe stealth omicron is a sub-variant known as BA-2 that hasn't been easily identified using PCR tests.
But, Jeong Eun-kyeong gave assurances that Korea's homegrown variant PCR tests have been able to detect this strain.
She added that this sub variant isn't of concern yetbut monitoring will continue.

As to how Korea will tackle the spread of Omicron the head of the KDCA cited the importance of efficiently utilizing our limited medical and quarantine resources.

"We are expanding the number of hospitals and clinics that are able to monitor patients being treated at home. We're also planning to bring in some 31-thousand courses of antiviral pills at clinics by the end of January. They are currently being used on those with weak immunity and people over 60 to prevent them from developing severe illnesses."

That explains why the country is set on using rapid antigen test kits as the latest screening method for most of the populationinstead of PCR tests.
Excluding people over 60, those at high risk, or those who came to close contact with an infected personeveryone else will have to test themselves with a rapid antigen test kit at testing sites or even at local hospitals starting February 3rd.
Testing sites across the nation, will have them ready from Saturday.
Likewise, authorities are also set to keep the current social distancing measures in place instead of toughening them even after the Lunar New Year holiday when many are expected to travel and visit their relatives.

How many people in South Korea are expected to travel during the holiday? Do officials have any advice for them?

Some 28.7 million people are expected to move across the nation from this Friday all the way to February 2nd.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport forecast an average of 4.8 million people to travel each dayduring the holiday.
This is an increase of 17% from last year.
The government is highly recommending people to refrain from traveling as a whole.
But to those that must go, they're asking them to get booster shots and COVID-19 tests ahead of time.
Alsomake their visits short, refrain from using public transportation and rest areas along the road, and wear masks that are certified KF 80 or higher.

Alright Ye-eun. Thank you for your report. Have a happy, safe holiday.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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