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Moon calls for enhanced containment measures

Seoul, Jan 4 (IANS) South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday instructed his aides to make efforts to contain the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron Covid-19 variant, as health authorities warned that it is likely to soon replace the Delta variant as the dominant strain in the country.

Moon also called for officials to spare no efforts to provide compensation to small merchants and self-employed people who were hit by the government's imposing of tighter virus curbs, reports Yonhap News Agency.

"The government should make utmost efforts for anti-epidemic measures and medical responses in the wake of the spread of the Omicron variant, as well as compensation and support for small merchants," the President told a Cabinet meeting.

Last November, South Korea eased long-enforced restrictions on private gatherings and business operations as part of efforts to return to normalcy in phases under the "living with Covid-19" scheme.

But daily Covid cases had surged to almost 8,000 in mid-December, prompting the government to reimpose tighter virus curbs.

The toughened rules brought a setback to the government's scheme that targets people's gradual return to normal life, and caused a strong backlash from small merchants and self-employed people.

Health authorities have said that Omicron could become the dominant strain in South Korea as early as this month. As of Monday, South Korea had confirmed 111 more Omicron cases, bringing the total to 1,318.