New cases back above 600 amid spreading variants

SEOUL, South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases rose back above 600 on Wednesday, with health authorities remaining on alert over a potential spike amid spreading variant cases.

The country reported 635 more COVID-19 cases, including 613 local infections, raising the total caseload to 128,918, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Wednesday's figure jumped from 511 cases Tuesday, 463 Monday and 564 Sunday though it is lower than the 701 Saturday. The daily caseload usually spikes after weekends as more people get tested.

There was five additional deaths from the virus, raising the total to 1,884. The fatality rate was 1.46 percent.

Later in the day, health authorities and local governments reported 630 new virus cases as of 9 p.m., up 74 cases from the same time on Tuesday.

To stem the spread, the country is revving up its vaccination drive with an aim to achieve herd immunity by November.

The country will receive 14.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in May and June, enough to vaccinate up to 13 million people in the first half of this year, according to the KDCA.

The health agency said 7.23 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine will arrive in the country between May 14 and the first week of June, while 5 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine will also be supplied by June.

A total of 3,698,657 people have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 7.2 percent of the country's population, since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 2.03 million people, while 1.67 million have received that of Pfizer.

A total of 20,678 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, up 412 from a day earlier, although 96.2 percent of them were mild symptoms.

A total of 103 post-vaccination deaths have been reported, although the exact causes of the deaths remain unknown as health authorities could not determine causality, the KDCA said.

Health authorities said around 8.95 million people between age 60 and 74 will receive vaccination shots in the coming weeks.

Starting May 27, people between age 65 and 74 will be administered with AstraZeneca's vaccine. Those between age 60 and 65 will receive AstraZeneca's vaccine starting June 7.

Of the new locally transmitted cases, 424 cases came from the capital area, with 220 from Seoul, 184 from Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital and 20 from Incheon, just west of Seoul.

South Korea's southeastern port city of Busan reported 10 more cases.

There were 22 additional imported cases, raising the country's total number of imported cases to 8,630.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 167, down four from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 119,373, up 656 from a day earlier, with 7,661 people being isolated for COVID-19 treatment.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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