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S. Korea find first suspected cases of Omicron as daily caseload shows potential to reach record-high Updated: 2021-12-01 06:06:48 KST

South Korea has reported its first suspected cases of the new COVID varirant - (oh-mee-cron) Omicron.
In response, the South Korean government plans will tighten border controls.
This coming as South Korea endures another spike in infections,.. with the daily caseload possibly hitting a new record when the finalized figures come out in a couple of hours.

For more COVID-19 related updates, we have our Kim Yeon-seung in the studio with us again, welcome Yeon-seung.

Good morning

Well Yeon-seung, let's start with an update on the COVID-19 situation here in South Korea.

South Korea saw its highest late-night tally as of yet.
Close to 3,900 cases were logged up to 9PM Tuesday.
When the total tally rounds up for Wednesday, it has the potential to mark a record-high.
The daily caseload may reach way above that 4-thousand mark.
The peak in infections stands at 4,115 new cases, which was recorded last Wednesday.

We've been talking about (oh-mee-cron)Omicron variant for the past few days, but we hear it could be in South Korea now

Yes, possibly. South Korea has found its first suspected cases of Omicron.
Health authorities said on Tuesday that a couple that had visited Nigeria tested positive with COVID-19,..
and officials have reason to suspect that this couple was infected with the Omicron strain,.. because Canada and Hong Kong have also seen Omicron infections in travelers from Nigeria.
Health authorities had found out that they had come into contact with and transmitted the virus to their teenage child and one of their acquaintances,.. so currently there are four people in South Korea who are suspected to have been infected with Omicron.
The test results that determine whether they're infected with this strain will come out Wednesday night, sometime around 9 PM.

South Korea taking any further steps to address this new threat?

For starters,.. South Korea will tighten border controls.
The Blue House on Tuesday said in a written statement that President Moon jae-in had ordered officials to take the necessary steps in order to fend off this new strain,..
because it has the potential to become a national health threat that can throw off the current COVID-19 prevention efforts.
President Moon had ordered officials to strengthen prevention measures for incoming travelers, to quickly modify test kits so it that can identify the Omicron variant,.. and to cooperate with international bodies and experts to discuss an apt response.
Officials had not yet specified on how they plan to constrict entry for foreign travelers,.. but stay tuned to Arirang News, and we'll bring the updates as soon as we can.

Tell us more about how this new variant is spreading in other countries?

Neighboring Japan just found their first case.
The infected patient was a Namibian diplomat,.. arriving from his home country.
With Omicron cases now spreading among Asian populations, Chinese authorities are worried that this has the potential to thwart the upcoming Beijing winter Olympics, which is due to kick off in two months.
Israel also saw new infections among two doctors,.. both of whom had completed the three-dose inoculations.
In Europe, Omicron cases totaled 44, spanning over 11 countries in the region.

Why is Europe seeing such a comparatively high Omicron caseload?

Well, health experts have reason to suspect that the Omicron variant has been circulating around Europe, even before South Africa detected this new strain and alerted the WHO.
The Netherlands' health body had traced this mutated virus strain among patient samples,.. that date from November 19th to the 23rd.
Remember, South Africa sent warnings to the WHO on November 24th.
So this variant could have been running rampant earlier and in more regions than health authorities previously thought.

Is there new information regarding this new strain?

Early tests show that current methods of treatment that we have available may be less effective against Omicron.
So right now, the COVID-19 antibody drug cocktails from Regeneron and Eli Lilly are widely used for COVID-19 infected patients.
But separate preliminary tests show the effectiveness of these cocktail drugs may be lessened when it comes to battling this new strain.
Since these tests are preliminary, scientists are refraining from drawing up any conclusive statement from these studies,.. but if they turn out to be true current treatment methods may have to be modified.

Right we will have to hope treatments for this new variant could be developed as soon as possible, thank you for that report, and we'll be seeing you in a few weeks.
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