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Country long hailed as a pandemic success story reports more than 621,000 cases and 429 deaths.

South Korea has reported new daily records for coronavirus cases and deaths as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the country.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported a staggering 621,328 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, including 62 among arrivals from overseas, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Deaths also reached a record for a single day with 429 people confirmed to have lost their lives, bringing the overall toll since the start of the pandemic to 11,481.

The surging caseload comes as South Korea eases curbs designed to contain the spread of the virus, amid pressure from small businesses and others hit hard by the pandemic.

The government is due to announce on Friday whether it will further relax restrictions, which currently include a late-night business curfew and a ban on private gatherings of more than six people.

Yonhap noted that the number of critically-ill patients, which is being used to guide the official pandemic response, had dropped to 1,159 from 1,244 on Wednesday.

The country has scaled back the test, track, tracing, and quarantine strategy that helped keep earlier waves in check and despite Thursday’s record deaths, the fatality rate remains low relative to other countries.

Health authorities also believe the Omicron wave could be close to its peak.

About 87 percent of South Korea’s 52 million people have been fully vaccinated with 63 percent having received a booster shot, according to the KDCA.

Source: Al Jazeera

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