New COVID-19 cases below 90,000 for 3rd day; pre-departure virus tests for arrivals lifted

South Korea's new COVID-19 cases stayed below 90,000 for the third straight day Saturday as the country lifted its mandatory pre-departure virus tests for arrivals amid an easing virus wave.

The country reported 79,746 new COVID-19 infections, including 323 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 23,497,048, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The latest figure is down by 9,840 from the previous day and also marks the lowest for a Saturday in six weeks.

An omicron variant had led to a virus resurgence from early July, with the daily caseload spiking to as high as 180,000 in mid-August after falling as low as 3,000 in June.

Health authorities believe the virus wave is now on track for a gradual slowdown.

The country also suspended its mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 test for inbound travelers starting Saturday. A mandatory PCR test within the first 24 hours of entry into South Korea will remain in place.

Health officials still remain wary of a potential uptick in cases later this month as many Koreans are set to travel to their hometowns during the Chuseok fall harvest holiday, which falls on Sept. 9-12 this year.

On Saturday, the KDCA reported 74 additional deaths from COVID-19, putting the death toll at 27,014.

The number of critically ill patients came to 520, up by 12 from Friday's tally.

Of the locally transmitted 79,423 cases, Seoul reported 13,887 new cases, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital added 21,089 infections. Incheon, a port city 27 kilometers west of Seoul, identified 4,406 new cases.

As of 9 p.m. Saturday, the country had reported 68,966 additional infections, down 6,600 from the same time the previous day, according to health authorities and provincial governments. Daily virus cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

Source: Yonhap News Agency