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South Korea sets high of 8,000 new virus cases

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – South Korea recorded more than 8,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time yesterday as health authorities reshape the country’s pandemic response to address a surge driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The 8,571 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency followed three straight days exceeding 7,000. With Omicron spreading more than twice as fast as the Delta strain that caused the last surge, experts said new cases may exceed 10,000 this week and possibly 20,000 after the Lunar New Year’s holiday break that begins this weekend and continues to next Wednesday.

To prevent a sudden explosion of infections from overwhelming hospitals and disrupting workplaces and essential services, South Korea will reduce quarantine periods, expand testing and treat more people at home.