S.Korea’s daily COVID-19 numbers top 90,000, the basketball league stopped
S.Korea’s daily COVID-19 numbers top 90,000, the basketball league stopped

S.Korea’s daily COVID-19 numbers top 90,000, the basketball league stopped

People wait in line to undergo the coronavirus (COVID-19) test at a temporary test site set up at City Hall Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, on February 10, 2022. REUTERS / Heo Ran

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SEOUL, February 16 (Reuters) – South Korea’s daily count of new coronavirus cases peaked at 90,000 for the first time, driven to record by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, which has seen daily numbers almost double in just one week.

The 90,443 cases reported for Tuesday represent a drastic increase from the 57,177 registered by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) the day before.

The rise has seen the virus spread through Korean business and society, and the country’s men’s basketball league stopped its season on Wednesday when dozens of players tested positive for COVID-19.

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The total number of infections in the country since the pandemic began rose to 1,552,851, but the number of deaths remains relatively low with 39 deaths on Tuesday and a total of 7,202 so far.

The suspension from the Korean Basketball League (KBL) came after the suspension of the professional baseball league for women last week.

KBL had been under pressure despite some previous infections among players and staff, but it finally canceled all scheduled matches this week after three teams reported more than 10 cases each. Some players openly criticized the league organizers for not protecting athletes and their families.

South Korea, with a population of 52 million, has largely been a success story of COVID-19 mitigation, largely thanks to widespread use of masks, social distancing, and aggressive testing and tracking.

But authorities scrapped contact tracing and mandatory isolation for vaccinated people and adopted self-diagnosis and home treatment from this month to free up medical resources for more serious patients amid the spread of the less deadly Omicron variant. Read more

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the government was considering easing the current strict distance edges, which include a curfew at 1 p.m. 21 for restaurants, cafes and bars and a ban on gatherings of more than six vaccinated persons. A formal announcement is expected on Friday.

The curbs have emerged as a politically sensitive topic ahead of the March 9 presidential election, in which small business owners are calling for the curfew to be lifted. Read more

But some experts have warned that relaxing rules will only boost the spread of the virus and strain the medical system.

“We see mixed views and different issues regarding distance adjustment and we will make a decision after listening to several opinions,” Health Ministry spokesman Son Young-rae told a briefing.

More than 86% of South Koreans have been fully vaccinated and 58% have received a booster shot, KDCA data showed.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing Tom and Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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