Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in will not hold a New Year's press conference as he focuses on handling the COVID-19 situation with the highly transmissible omicron variant becoming the dominant strain in South Korea, a senior presidential official said Monday.
The presidential office had been preparing for the New Year's press conference as Moon wrapped up his eight-day visit to the Middle East last Saturday.
"In a situation where the omicron variant has become the dominant strain, the New Year's press conference is difficult to realize in order to focus on coping with it," Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public communication, told reporters.
Asked whether the press conference was canceled, Park replied his remarks do not constitute a cancellation, because the presidential office did not publicly announce a plan to hold a New Year's press conference in the beginning.
Earlier in the day, the government said the detection rate of the omicron variant had reached 50.3 percent as of last week, meaning the omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 virus strain in South Korea.
As daily coronavirus cases stayed above 7,000 for the third straight day Monday, the authorities are expected to shift to a new medical response system as planned in order to handle the pandemic in a flexible manner.
Under the new system, rapid antigen tests will be introduced at COVID-19 testing centers to produce faster results, while polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be reserved for high-risk groups. (Yonhap)