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(LEAD) S. Korea reports additional omicron variant infection, total now at 6

21:48 December 02, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more details in last 9 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- A teenage boy tested positive for the omicron variant of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total caseload of the potentially more transmissible virus in South Korea to six, health authorities said Thursday.

The boy, residing in Incheon, west of Seoul, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and had been tested for the variant, after his parents were confirmed to have been infected with the variant on Wednesday following their visit to Nigeria last month, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The couple in their 40s was among the first known omicron cases in South Korea, along with their friend and two other female citizens.

Foreign tourists in protective gear enter Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Dec. 2, 2021, amid mounting concerns over the spread of the omicron variant. (Yonhap)

Concerns are growing that the variant could spread further, as health authorities said that at least 272 individuals have come into contact with the infected people.

As of Thursday, three family members of the omicron-infected people tested positive for the new coronavirus. Their test results for the variant are expected to come on Saturday.

Adding to the woes is that the infected couple was found to have lied about their movement upon arrival in South Korea from the African country, causing loopholes in the authorities' contact tracing.

The government has been rushing to block the inflow of the variant.

Starting Friday, all international arrivals will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 10 days for the next two weeks, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, excluding those from Singapore and Saipan in accordance with their "travel bubble" quarantine-exemption pacts.

The emergence of the omicron variant came as the country is grappling with the drastic surge in new COVID-19 cases and critical cases in recent weeks.

On Thursday, South Korea reported 5,266 new COVID-19 cases and 733 critically ill patients, both of which hit all-time highs since the outbreak of the new coronavirus in January last year.

The increasing variant infections have also put a damper on the country's efforts to return to normalcy by gradually easing antivirus restrictions under the "living with COVID-19 scheme" that began in November.

The government decided to put the scheme on hold and is expected to adopt tougher social distancing rules on Friday.


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