New COVID-19 cases below 400,000 for 3rd day amid omicron wave

South Korea's new daily COVID-19 cases stayed below 400,000 for the third consecutive day Saturday, as the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant continues amid eased virus curbs.

The country added 335,580 new COVID-19 infections, including 49 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 11,497,711, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Saturday's tally is down from 339,514 the previous day. South Korea has seen the average count trend downward over the past week, with the numbers coming in at about 357,000 compared with around 405,000 tallied a week earlier.

The death toll from COVID-19 was 323, down 70 from Friday. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.

The number of critically ill patients came to 1,164, up 79 from the previous day.

As of 9 p.m., the country had added 310,049 new COVID-19 cases, up 3,715 from the same time the previous day, according to health authorities and city governments.

Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

South Korea is experiencing the worst wave of the pandemic, surpassing the grim milestone of 10 million total infections earlier this week. Nearly 9 million cases have been reported since early February. The daily caseload surged to an all-time high of 621,205 on March 17.

The government has shifted away from rigorous contact tracing, and relaxed some virus restrictions for private gatherings and schools in efforts to regain normalcy and support small businesses and self-employed people hit hard by the pandemic.

Starting Saturday, health authorities will administer MSD's oral pill, Lagevrio, for patients with underlying illnesses or symptoms that forbid them from taking Paxlovid or other treatment pills.

The first batch of Lagevrio, enough for 20,000 patients, arrived Thursday, with an additional batch for 80,000 patients to arrive by the end of this month.

Of the domestic cases, Seoul reported 64,025 new infections, with the surrounding Gyeonggi Province logging 90,775. The western port city of Incheon reported 16,785.

As of early Saturday, 32.59 million people out of the total population, or 63.5 percent, had received booster shots. Fully vaccinated people came to 44.47 million, representing 86.7 percent, the KDCA said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency