Omicron already dominant in some parts of S. Korea; vaccine rules lifted for certain venues as of Tues.
Updated: 2022-01-18 17:08:30 KST
South Korea's total number of COVID-19 cases has now topped 700,000 with another 4,72 new cases added on Tuesday.
309 were imported cases, while the rest were domestic infections.
Local cases are increasing outside the capital.
Infections in non-capital regions made up around 40 percent of Tuesday's local cases, jumping from 30 percent earlier this month.
Authorities say that the rise seems to be fueled by Omicron, because non-capital regions are reporting rapid rates of Omicron spread.
Omicron already seems to be the dominant strain in Jeollabuk- do and Jeollanam-do provinces, as well as Gwangju city.
Authorities expect Omicron to become dominant nationwide by this weekend.
Meanwhile, starting from Tuesday, vaccine passes are no longer required in venues where people don't have to take their masks off.
This includes large supermarkets, department stores, study rooms, museums, libraries, and movie theaters.
But in place of these measures, eating in these venues will not be allowed.
Further tweaks to vaccine rules may come, as Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official said Tuesday that the government is looking to provide more vaccine pass exemptions.
That announcement is due later this week.
There's still much confusion about the vaccine pass situation for minors.
The government's original plan was to enforce vaccine passes for those aged 12 to 18 starting from March.
But this has recently been thwarted by the Seoul Administrative Court's decision to suspend vaccine passes for underage citizens.
The South Korean government is looking to appeal that injunction and is hoping to reach an agreement before March.
Health authorities still remain adamant that vaccine passes are needed to protect minors at venues like PC rooms, singing rooms, restaurants and cafes.
Kim Yeon-seung, Arirang News