SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily COVID-19 cases reached yet another record high Friday, as the country grapples with the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant with a new nationwide virus response system set to come into force.
The country reported 16,096 new COVID-19 infections, including 15,894 local cases, raising the total to 793,582, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The daily count broke the record for the fourth consecutive day, spiking from 8,570 on Tuesday. The per day figures have more than quadrupled since Jan. 17, when the tally hovered around 3,800.
The death toll from COVID-19 came to 6,678, up 24 from Thursday. The fatality rate stood at 0.84 percent.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was 316, down 34 from the previous day.
The public health agency said the infection tally could surge to as many as 100,000 a day in the next several weeks.
South Korea is set to introduce a revised virus response system Saturday to tackle the omicron wave.
Some 250 testing stations set up at public health centers and large hospitals will adopt both rapid antigen self-tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. People can choose which one they want to take.
People aged over 60 or in high-risk groups, such as those with underlying illnesses, will be prioritized for PCR tests.
Beginning Thursday next week, local hospitals and clinics will also administer self-test kits.
The KDCA said the revised regime is designed to minimize critical cases and deaths, while preventing an overload and collapse of the medical system.
The system will expand nationwide after the three-day Lunar New Year holiday running till Wednesday.
Of the locally transmitted cases Friday, Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul reported 5,143 new COVID-19 cases, followed by Seoul with 3,946 and the western port city of Incheon at 1,228.
The number of imported cases was tallied at 202, bringing the total to 24,649.
As of Friday, 26.35 million people, or 51.4 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received booster shots, the KDCA said. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 43.93 million people, accounting for 85.6 percent.