South Korea has reported more than 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the start of the pandemic as it faces the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced Wednesday 12,743 new local infections and 269 imported cases confirmed in the last 24 hours.
Compared with the previous day's tally, cases spiked by more than 4,400.
By region, 64 percent of those newly diagnosed with infections are from the greater Seoul area, which continues to be the major virus hotspot in the country.
The number of critically ill COVID patients in ICUs decreased by seven to 385, while 32 additional virus-related fatalities were reported raising the death toll to 6,620.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during today's COVID-19 response meeting that the spread of Omicron has begun in full force.
Kim said, "From now on, the main goal of our antivirus response will be to reduce critical cases and deaths."
Health authorities have warned of a COVID surge in the coming weeks, possibly topping 30,000 cases a day next month, should the current pace of Omicron continue.