Coronavirus: South Korea confirms first 5 cases of Omicron variant

SEOUL – South Korea has confirmed the first five cases of the novel coronavirus Omicron variant in people linked to people from Nigeria.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said the cases included a couple who arrived from Nigeria on November 24 and a friend who drove them home from the airport.

The other two cases are women who also traveled to Nigeria and returned to South Korea on November 23.

Health workers had previously said they were carrying out genetic sequencing on a child of the couple and a relative of the man who drove them home to determine if they were infected.

South Korea is considering further border control measures after banning short-term foreign visitors from South Africa and seven other South African countries starting Sunday to combat Omicron, which is considered potentially contagious. infection than other viruses.

Korean citizens coming from these countries will be quarantined for at least 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The AP’s previous story follows.

The daily spike in coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 5,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, as the delta-driven surge also pushed hospital admissions and deaths to record highs.

With the contagion threatening to overwhelm hospital capacity, health experts have called on officials to re-apply stricter social-management rules that were relaxed last month to ease the impact of the virus. pandemic on the economy.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the majority of the 5,123 new cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area, where officials previously said more than 80% intensive care units assigned to pre-existing COVID-19 patients.

More than 720 patients with the virus are in serious or critical condition, also marking a new high. The death toll in the country has reached 3,658 after seeing between 30 and 50 people die every day in recent weeks.

The KDCA also said that medical staff were conducting genetic sequencing on a couple from Nigeria to determine if they were infected with the new coronavirus variant omicron.

The country has yet to confirm a case of omicron, which is considered more infectious than previous strains of the virus.

The government eased social distancing regulations in early November and fully reopened schools starting November 22 in what officials describe as the first steps towards restoring a normal numbers before the pandemic.

In allowing larger social gatherings and longer periods of indoor dining, officials had hoped that improving the country’s vaccination rates would help minimize the number of hospitalizations and immediate deaths. even as the virus continues to spread.

However, healthcare workers are currently grappling with an increase in severe cases and deaths among people 60 years of age and older, those who have refused vaccines or who have weakened immunity. decreased after being injected early in the mass vaccination campaign that began in February.

The contagion has forced the government to take further steps to ease social distancing, but officials have so far resisted calls to reinstate stricter collection rules, citing due to economic concerns and public fatigue and frustration over extended virus restrictions.

“We cannot go back to the past by reversing our efforts to gradually restore normal life,” President Moon Jae-in said at a meeting on the virus on Monday.

Instead, officials are trying to speed up the implementation of booster shots and manage the sharing of hospital capacity between the larger Seoul area and other areas with smaller outbreaks to prevent The hospital system is overloaded.

Officials also said they would improve medical responses so that most mild cases would be treated at home.

The Korea Federation of Medical Action Groups for Health Rights, which represents doctors and medical workers, released a statement criticizing the government for putting lives in jeopardy with its policies. “lack of preparation” to restore normalcy.

It said the government should restore stricter social management rules and buy more beds from private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.

“Although the government has said it will focus on raising immunization rates, it cannot be an immediate solution to the current crisis as it takes time for vaccination rates to reach its peak,” the group said. effective improvement”. “Saying that home treatment will be the norm (for mild cases) is just one way of rationalizing the current shortage of hospital beds that has kept many virus patients waiting at home. Essentially, it’s a treatment waiver statement.”


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