South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases surpassed 100,000 for the first time in the last two years following the pandemic outbreak in the country in 2020, health authorities said Friday.
The new infections spiked since last December when the first case of the omicron variant was reported in the East Asian country.
In the past 24 hours, South Korea reported 109,831 new cases, bringing the total caseload to over 1.75 million, according to the Health Ministry.
With 45 more fatalities, the death toll also reached 7,283.
Since Feb. 10 – when the country registered over 50,000 cases for the first time – South Korea reported 516,542 cases and 271 deaths, the Health Ministry data showed.
Despite the spike in new cases, the government earlier in the day eased some COVID-19 restrictions temporarily suspending the mandatory identification proofs while entering facilities that required proof of vaccination, Yonhap News Agency reported.
While authorities also extended the cafes and restaurants’ hours to 10 p.m, the private gathering limit will remain at six people.
“We could not overlook the reality of small merchants and self-employed people,” the agency quoted Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum as saying during a COVID-19 response meeting.
“Until the omicron wave shifts to a downward trend after passing its peak, we decided to maintain the structure of the current distancing system,” he added.
The government is facing pressure from small businessmen and self-employed people to ease the tough restrictions that badly affected their businesses and life.
However, earlier this month, the health experts warned that infections could rise in the country and cross daily 200,000 cases due to the omicron strain.
The country is also going for the presidential election scheduled for March 9. The official presidential campaign also kicked off on Tuesday, in which candidates are allowed to hold gatherings and reach their voters.
The East Asian nation so far had fully vaccinated 44.27 million people or 86.3% of its 52 million population.
Meanwhile, local courts in South Korean cities of Daejeon and Incheon ruled against the government plan to include young people aged 12 to 18 years in mandatory vaccination pass when entering multiuser facilities, according to the agency.
The government was planning to include mandatory vaccination pass for young people from April 1.
Earlier, courts in the capital Seoul and Gyeonggi Province also issued similar orders and barred the government from including young people aged 12 to 18 years to show mandatory vaccination pass while entering cafes, restaurants, and other multi-use facilities.
However, the courts rejected the plea to suspend the government’s COVID-19 restrictions of social distancing and business curfew and said these measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.
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