South Korea’s daily COVID-19 count tops 90,000, basketball league halted

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

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SEOUL, Feb 16 (Reuters) – South Korea’s daily number of new coronavirus cases topped 90,000 for the first time, boosted to a record by the fast-spreading Omicron variant which saw daily tallies nearly double in only a week.

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

The outbreak has seen the virus spread through Korean businesses and society, and the men’s basketball and volleyball leagues halted their seasons on Wednesday as dozens of players tested positive for COVID-19.

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The total number of infections in the country since the start of the pandemic has risen to 1,552,851, but deaths remain relatively low, with 39 fatalities on Tuesday and a total of 7,202 so far.

The suspension of the Korea Basketball League (KBL) and the Korea Volleyball Federation (KOVO) came after the shutdown of the women’s professional volleyball league last week.

The KBL had continued despite some previous infections among players and staff, but eventually canceled all games scheduled for this week after three teams reported more than 10 cases each. Some players have openly criticized league organizers for failing to protect athletes and their families.

KOVO said the league will be suspended until Feb. 24 to ensure all teams have enough players to fill their rosters.

South Korea, with a population of 52 million, has largely been a success story in mitigating COVID-19, largely through widespread mask-wearing, social distancing, and aggressive testing and tracing.

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

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the government was considering easing current strict distancing restrictions, which include a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafes and bars, and a ban on gatherings of more than six people. vaccinated. An official announcement is expected on Friday.

The restrictions have become a politically sensitive issue ahead of the March 9 presidential election, with small business owners calling for curfews to be lifted. Read more

But some experts have warned that relaxing the rules will only fuel the spread of the virus and put a strain on the medical system.

“We see mixed views and various issues regarding the distance adjustment, and we will make a decision after listening to many opinions,” Health Ministry spokesman Son Young-rae said during the interview. of a briefing.

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

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Tom and Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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