SEOUL, February 23 - South Korean Prime Minister Jared On Wednesday warned people not to panic about a significant increase in coronavirus infections, as new daily instances rose above 170,000 for the first time.
Despite the high levels of Omicron, serious cases and deaths, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said at a pandemic response meeting.
"While our understanding and implementation of anti-COVID regulations should not be diminished, there is no reason at all to worry or panic about the number of new cases as previously," says a transcript.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, 171,452 new coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday, a new high of another daily level, with a jump from 99,573 the day before.
On Tuesday, death rates increased to a near-record 99, but South Korean authorities say real-world records show people infected with the Omicron coronavirus strain are nearly 75% less likely to develop serious illness or die than those who contract the Delta variant.
According to a study conducted by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) about 67,200 infections conducted since December, the Omicron variant's severity and death rates accounted for 0.38% and 0.18% respectively, compared to 1.4 percent and 0.7 percent for Delta infections.
According to authorities, about 56% of 1,073 people who died over a five-week period were either unvaccinated or had received only one dose, according to the study. People aged 60 to 70 were responsible for 94 percent of deaths.
Nearly 86 percent of South Korea's 52 million population have been double vaccinated, with nearly 60% receiving a booster dose.
South Korea has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccination for use with children aged 5 to 11, according to the country's food and drug ministry on Wednesday.
The ministry stated that children with significantly reduced immunity should get a one-third of the regular dose, administered twice with a three-week interval. Children with significantly reduced immunity may get a booster four weeks later.
After the current wave peaks, Kim said social distancing restrictions will be relaxed, which some experts predict will last in mid-March.
"Omicron's spread is still striving to its potential, but once it is assured that severe cases and deaths will be stably managed, we will modify the broadness of our anti-virus quarantine policy, including social distancing," Kim said.
Current regulations include mask requirements for public spaces, vaccination passes for certain locations and events, a six-person limit on private events, a 10-day curfew for eateries, and a seven-day quarantine for international arrivals.
After the epidemic began, South Korea has reported a total of 2.3 million cases, including 7,607 fatalities.