Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyun announces a statement, asking people to refrain from traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday due to the spread of the omicron variant on Monday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum on Monday asked people to refrain from traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday, as the highly transmissible omicron variant is beginning to tighten its grip on South Korea.
Millions of people usually travel across the nation to meet relatives or visit tourist spots during the holiday for Lunar New Year that falls on Feb. 1 this year. The holiday runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.
Kim called for people to get booster shots if they want to travel during the holiday.
"I earnestly ask you to refrain from visiting your hometown for everyone's safety and health," Kim said.
If people visit their hometowns and increase private gatherings during the holiday, "It will be no different from pouring fuel on a burning fire," Kim said.
Earlier in the day, the government said the detection rate of the omicron variant had reached 50.3 percent as of last week, meaning that omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 virus strain in South Korea.
As the daily tally stayed above 7,000 for the third consecutive 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.
The self-quarantine period for patients will also be shortened from the current 10 days to seven, officials said. (Yonhap)