S.Korea daily COVID-19 cases top 100,000 for first time, curfew eased

People wait in line to undergo the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a temporary testing site set up in Seoul, South Korea, February 16, 2022. REUTERS/ Heo Ran

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SEOUL, Feb 18 (Reuters) – South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 for the first time amid an Omicron outbreak, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Friday, though deaths have remained relatively low in the highly vaccinated country.

Authorities announced on Friday they would slightly ease a curfew on businesses from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., but retain other measures such as a six-person cap on private gatherings, a seven-day quarantine for international arrivals, mask mandates in public spaces, and vaccine passes for a range of businesses.

The measures would be in place until at least March 13, officials said, after the March 9 presidential election.

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As cases have surged, South Korea has scaled back the tracking, tracing, and quarantining strategy that helped it keep earlier waves in check.

Now people with few or no symptoms are being treated at home rather than health facilities, and only people in priority groups get immediate access to free PCR tests.

Others must first take a rapid antigen test for faster initial diagnosis.

Some experts forecast daily cases could still double or triple, but authorities say so far serious cases have remained manageable, and deaths relatively low.

More than 58% of the country’s 52 million population has received vaccine booster shots. Overall more than 44 million people, accounting for 86.2% of the population, are fully vaccinated.

The KDCA said 109,831 new COVID-19 cases had been reported as of midnight on Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 1,755,809. An additional 45 deaths were reported, for a total of 7,283.

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Reporting by Josh Smith
Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.