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Covid cases rise across Asia as South Korea sees record numbers, Thailand restarts quarantine

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South Korea is struggling to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases, reporting 7,456 infections on Wednesday and a record number of people with serious symptoms, as countries across Asia face a similar battle.

The new infections bring South Korea’s total to 583,065, while the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said the number of critically ill patients rose to a new high of 1,063.

It is placing intense pressure on medical services, prompting the prime minister, Kim Boo-kyum, to commit to securing an additional 10,000 hospital beds for patients with moderate to serious symptoms by the middle of next month, the Yonhap news agency reported.

South Korea now requires citizens over 18 to present a quarantine pass, proof of Covid vaccination or negative PCR test to access indoor sports events, cinemas and concert halls. Other new restrictions include social distancing measures that will last until at least 2 January, limiting gatherings to no more than four people and forcing restaurants, cafes and bars to close by 9pm.

Thailand reported 2,532 new coronavirus cases and 31 deaths on Wednesday, according to the ministry of health. It will reinstate mandatory Covid quarantine for foreign visitors and scrap a quarantine waiver from Tuesday, Reuters reported. The move was confirmed by the government, which said the action was being taken due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

The Philippines has halved the waiting time for a Covid-19 vaccine booster to three months after a second vaccination, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. “We are exploring all possible options to safely mitigate the effects of more transmissible variants of Covid-19,” said the health secretary, Francisco Duque.

The Philippines has received more than 192m doses of Covid-19 vaccines and fully inoculated about 44.2 million of its 110 million population, according to the government. Covid-19 cases have fallen to an average of 378 a day in December, from a peak of 18,579 daily in September, and the country has so far detected three imported cases of the Omicron variant.

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