South Korea on Tuesday recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic as the highly infectious omicron variant sweeps across the country and the wider region.
The East Asian nation reported 293 deaths related to COVID-19 and 1,196 virus patients in serious or critical conditions — also a new high.
Officials said the medical response is still stable following efforts to expand resources, with more than 30% of intensive care units designated for COVID-19 treatment still available. But this may change in the coming weeks due to time lags between infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
"We anticipate the number of (serious or critical cases) to grow to around 2,000. We are preparing our medical response for that,'' the senior Health Ministry official Park Hyang said during a briefing.
Park said it was thanks to high vaccination rates that the country had so far weathered the surge in the omicron variant better than the United States and Europe had in terms of fatalities. Nearly two thirds of South Koreans have received booster
The latest figures come after health authorities significantly eased quarantine restrictions and border controls and stopped requiring adults to show proof of vaccination or negative tests when entering crowded spaces.
Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:
In China, nearly 30 million people were under lockdown on Tuesday after soaring COVID-19 cases triggered outbreaks and measures such as strict localized lockdowns and mass-testing returned.
The country registered 5,280 new cases on Tuesday, more than double the incidence rate recorded the previous day, as the omicron variants spreads rapidly. China is sticking to its stringent zero-COVID strategy.
Nationally, at least 13 cities, including tech hub Shenzhen and provincial capital Changchun, were fully locked down as of Tuesday, and several others had partial lockdowns, with about 15,000 infections reported nationwide in March.
Officials in Shanghai, where cases have been rising, said at a Tuesday press conference that "it is not necessary to lock down Shanghai at present," instead opting for more "precise" measures.
Vietnam has formally reopened to travelers after two years of being shut to international tourists, allowing people to enter the country with a tourist visa. But the official rules for vaccinations and testing resquirements still need to be decided, causing some confusion among people in the country and those visiting.
On Tuesday, the country's state media said COVID-19 patients were allowed to leave the house if they wore masks, but the Health Ministry reversed the guidance and said they must self-isolate at home.
People from several countries, including Russia, Japan, South Korea and Germany, will be allowed to enter Vietnam without a visa for 15 days, according to state media reports.
India will begin to administer vaccine jabs to children aged 12 to 14 starting Wednesday. It comes as schools reopen with standard restrictions and coronavrisus cases remain low.
Days before easing COVID-19 restrictions, Germany has recorded a record-high seven-day count of coronavirus cases.
The country's health body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), registered 198,888 new infections — 42,000 higher than a week ago. Another 283 people died, bringing the total to 125,873.
Despite the country's logging the highest coronavirus infections in 24 hours on Thursday, the government is set to go ahead with plans to relax most restrictions on March 20. In local hotspots, some protective measures will be in place decided by the individual states.
Thee government argues that, though cases are increasing, there is no major risk to the country's health sector.
Meanwhile, from Tuesday the vaccine mandate will apply to all workers in health and social care sectors in Germany, despite concerns over staff shortages. It means relevant employees must show proof of vaccination status or that they are recovered, those who for medical reasons cannot be jabbed are exempt.
The Dutch government is set to drop its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on March 23, despite a recent rise in infections.
The Netherlands has already ended a nationwide lockdown and scrapped most virus measures.
From March 23, it will no longer be obligatory to wear facemasks on public transport.
However, they are still mandatory on airplanes and for travelers who have passed through security at airports.
The government is also shelving a digital COVID pass requirement to enter nightclubs and other large-scale events — the only places they were needed.
New infections, which had been on the decline for weeks, started to rise again after the Dutch celebrated the annual carnival weekend.
The UK is set to scrap all COVID-19 travel restrictions ahead of the Easter holiday vacation on Friday, the government announced. It means the requirement to fill in passenger locator forms and for unvaccinated people to be tested for the virus before and after their arrivals will end.
fh/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)