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SEOUL-- South Korea's new coronavirus cases remained in the 200,000s for the second straight day on Wednesday, as the spread of the omicron variant has slowed down after peaking last month.

The country reported 286,294 new COVID-19 infections, including 22 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 14,553,644, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The daily tally remained below the 300,000s for the sixth consecutive day. The daily tally has been on the decline after reaching an all-time record of 621,181 on March 17.

The death toll from COVID-19 came to 18,033, up 371 from Sunday, the KDCA said.

The number of critically ill patients stood at 1,128, up seven from the previous day.

As of 9 p.m., the country had added 220,464 new infection cases, down 60,798 from the same time the previous day, according to data compiled by city and regional governments.

Daily COVID-19 infections are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

As of midnight Tuesday, fully vaccinated people stood at 44.5 million, or 86.7 percent of the 52 million population, while 64 percent had received booster shots, the KDCA said.

Starting this week, the government eased the private gathering limit to 10 people from eight. The business hour curfew on restaurants and cafes was also extended by one hour to midnight.

Health authorities are considering lifting the social distancing rules and allowing people to go mask-free outside if the virus stays in check through the end of next week.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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