New coronavirus cases under 2,000, authorities vigilant over autumn travelers

SEOUL, South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases fell below 2,000 on Saturday, with health authorities still keeping a watchful eye on a possible increase of infections over the extended weekend.

The country added 1,953 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,924 local infections, raising the total caseload to 329,925, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

After falling to 1,575 on Tuesday, the daily figure again rebounded to over 2,000 on Wednesday.

The country added six more deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, raising the death toll to 2,560. The fatality rate came to 0.78 percent.

The number of daily new virus cases has been above the 1,000 mark for 95 consecutive days due to sporadic cluster infections reported across the country.

Later in the day, health authorities and local governments said 1,465 new cases had been confirmed as of 9 p.m. Saturday, down 277 from the same time the previous day. The daily tally is counted until midnight and announced the following day.

Health authorities remain on alert over a further rise in new cases following a prolonged weekend ending Monday, which is a substitute holiday for Hangeul Day on Oct. 9, which celebrates the proclamation of the Korean alphabet.

On Monday, South Korea decided to maintain the toughest social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the population of 51 million, for another two-week period.

Since mid-July, the greater Seoul area has been under the Level 4 measures, which include business restrictions and a ban on private gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. in principle. Gatherings of up to six people, however, are currently allowed when at least four of them are fully vaccinated.

With the country’s vaccinations gathering pace, the government is considering a gradual shift to a phase of “living with COVID-19” starting Nov. 9, under which COVID-19 is treated as an infectious respiratory disease, like seasonal influenza, with eased distancing being implemented.

The KDCA said 39.9 million people, or 77.7 percent of the population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines since February when South Korea began its inoculation campaign. The number of fully vaccinated people stood at 30 million, or 59.1 percent.

Health authorities said the country currently holds 19.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in stock.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 707 new cases, with Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city reporting 629 cases and Incheon, west of Seoul, reporting 131 cases.

The southeastern port city of Busan took up 30, and the resort island of Jeju reported 26 new patients. South Gyeongsang Province added 71 new cases, and North Chungcheong Province reported 64 more.

Major cluster infections included a hospital in northern Seoul, which reported 28 new patients, and a restaurant from the southern part of the city found 14 additional cases.

Over the past two weeks, 35.8 percent of newly added cases had unknown transmission routes. Cluster infections accounted for 11 percent.

So far, 304,302 cases of suspected post-vaccination side effects have been reported. More than 96 percent of the cases involved mild symptoms, such as muscle pain and fever.

There have been 748 deaths after vaccination, though the authorities have yet to find a causal relationship between inoculation and death in most cases.

The number of new imported cases came to 29.

Arrivals from Uzbekistan accounted for six patients, with those from the United States at five. The figure includes South Korean nationals returning home from overseas.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 384, up from seven the previous day, the KDCA said.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 294,929, up 2,838 from a day earlier.

South Korea has carried out 14,925,875 COVID-19 tests so far, including 43,677 the previous day.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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