S. Korea, Japan, HK, New Zealand report record Covid-19 cases

South Korea reported 36,362 more cases of Covid-19 for the past 24 hours. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (XINHUA, REUTERS) - South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and New Zealand reported a record number of Covid-19 cases on Saturday (Feb 5), mostly fuelled by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

South Korea reported 36,362 more cases of Covid-19 for the past 24 hours, up from 27,443 the previous day and surpassing 36,000 for the first time, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The recent resurgence was driven by cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which became a dominant strain.

Of the new cases, 8,564 were Seoul residents. The number of the newly infected people living in Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon was 10,419 and 2,494 respectively.

The virus spread also raged in the non-metropolitan region.

The number of new infections in the non-capital areas was 14,685, or 40.6 per cent of the total local transmission.

Among the new cases, 200 were imported from overseas.

The number of infected people who were in a serious condition stood at 269, up 12 from the previous day.

Twenty-two more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 6,858. The total fatality rate was 0.71 per cent.

The country has fully inoculated 85.9 per cent of the population and 54.5 per cent have had their boosters.

Japan hit a record single-day number of Covid-19 cases on Saturday, public broadcaster NHK said, with its daily virus cases exceeded 100,000 cases, marking a fresh high.

Most regions in Japan are now under infection control measures to try to blunt the spread of Omicron that has exploded among a population where less than 5% have received vaccine booster shots.

Japan's daily virus cases exceeded 100,000 cases on Feb 6, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

New Zealand too warned of more Covid-19 cases coming its way as it hit a record 243 community cases on Saturday.

Officials urged people in the highly vaccinated nation not to panic.

The country of five million people has kept its borders closed since early 2020. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday a full reopening will happen only by October.

The border closure, combined with lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have limited the spread of the coronavirus, with just over 17,000 infections and 53 related deaths.

But with Omicron spreading in the Pacific nation, health officials said the caseload will grow.

"I urge people not to panic but to plan for that," said Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

"The best thing you can do to prevent illness is to get vaccinated and get your booster."

New Zealand's border closure combined with lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have limited the spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO: AFP

Health ministry data show 93 per cent of those eligible above the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated and 49 per cent of eligible adults have received a booster shot.

The situation was equally gloomy in Hong Kong.

The city reported 351 cases of coronavirus on Saturday, a record daily high since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Health Secretary Sophia Chan said at a news conference she expects cases to rise “exponentially” following the Chinese New Year holiday due to an increase in family and social gatherings and appealed several times for people to stay indoors.

“Stay at home, please,” Ms Chan said as she again urged people, especially the elderly, to get vaccinated.

About 160 of the latest cases had no clear source and were still being investigated, authorities said.

Hong Kong expects to see a record 350 daily Covid-19 cases on Feb 5, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The government this week extended a work-from-home plan for civil servants and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the city plans to roll out rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 to all its 7.5 million people in the near future.

On Friday, Hong Kong reported 131 positive cases, compared with 142 on Thursday. The previous daily record was 164 cases in late January.

In total, Hong Kong has recorded 213 Covid-19 deaths and around 15,000 cases since early 2020, according to the government.

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