We start with the latest on the COVID-19 situation in South Korea.
The authorities are evaluating the pandemic to be at the highest level of risk, yet.
In response, they've implemented stricter virus prevention measures,which include extending vaccine passes.
For more on this and other related updates,.. joining us is our reporter Shin Ye-eun, Good morning
Ye-eun, let's start with the number of new COVID-19 infections we're expecting today.
We're expecting numbers to be in the 4-thousands yet again.
Up to 9 pm Monday, the country reported 3-thousand 5-hundred 58 new COVID-19 infections.
This was 3-hundred-29 fewer than what had been reported at the same time the day before, but up by more than 9-hundred-17 from the same time last week.
South Korean authorities are warning we are at the highest emergency level due to the record-high numbers of critical cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
You're absolutely right, Mark.
Authorities in South Korea have evaluated that the risk level from the pandemic is at the HIGHEST level for the second week in a row.
Last month, the country implemented a new five-tier assessment system to evaluate the risk level of COVID-19 on a weekly basis.
Authorities said we're at the highest level of riskto the point where our medical system's capacity has reached its limit.
On Monday, the Central Disaster Management Headquarters said 8 out of 10 beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients in the greater Seoul area were being used.
The healthcare crunch was most evident in the Seoul and Incheon area.
In Seoul, nearly 90 percent of beds for critically ill patients were in use, while the figure in Incheon stood at 93.7 percent.
For this reason authorities decided to pause on the "gradual return to normal" scheme from Monday and instead introduced tougher measureslike expanding vaccine passes to most public places. Was everyone on board with this latest measure?
Vaccine passes have been a controversial topic ever since they were implemented in November.
An online petition against vaccine passes uploaded near the end of Novemberhas garnered endorsement from more than 280 thousand people.
This comes as vaccine passes have been implemented at more facilities.
Passes are now required at restaurants, cafes and theaters.
Initially, proof of vaccination was only required for people entering venues like indoor sports facilities, nightclubs or singing rooms.
Unvaccinated people had to submit a negative PCR test result taken within the previous two days to gain entry.
Authorities have also decided to extend vaccine pass requirements to students aged 12 to 18 from February, despite opposition from some teens and their parents.
They will require students to be fully vaccinated to go to cram schools, libraries and academies for the sake of public safety.
But many parents and students said this measure would violate unvaccinated students' right to study.
We've been seeing this tug-of-war on vaccine passes between the authorities and the public outside of Korea as well.
Right, whether governments around the world should mandate vaccines or even implement "incentives" for the vaccinated has been questioned.
Some people around the world have been very vocal about their disapproval against vaccine passes.
On Sunday, thousands opposing the Belgian government's COVID-19 restrictions marched through the streets of Brussels carrying placards reading "No to mandatory vaccination" and "No to dictatorship."
Take a listen to what one protester had to say:
"I am a natural being and I want to choose over my own body and my own free will, and that's why I'm here."
Demonstrations have also occurred in other parts of the worldlike Australia, the U.S. and Switzerland.
Despite protests in Switzerland though, two-third of voters actually backed a law passed earlier this year to use vaccine passes.
So vaccine pass measures are definitely controversial.
We will have to see how other countries, including South Korea address this.
Thank you for your report as always. We will talk to you again tomorrow.