New infections in 300s for 2nd day, tighter curbs eyed for greater Seoul

SEOUL-- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases remained in the 300s for the second day Tuesday on fewer tests over the past weekend, but toughened antivirus measures will be implemented for virus-prone facilities in greater Seoul amid fears of an infection resurgence.

The country reported 363 more COVID-19 cases, including 345 local infections, raising the total caseload to 96,380, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The figure was slightly down from 382 on Monday. Over the past week, the daily new cases hovered around 400 on growing cluster infections, stoking concerns over a potential resurgence in virus cases.

The total number of cases as of 9 p.m. Tuesday reached 418, up from 307 at the same time on Monday. Daily tallies, compiled by health authorities and regional governments, are counted through midnight and announced the following morning.

Health authorities announced enhanced measures to prevent the resurgence of the virus in the greater Seoul area, where around 80 percent of new virus infections have been reported for a few months. The wider Seoul area is home to half of the country's 52 million population.

The Seoul government plans to closely monitor around 30 facilities, such as parks, department stores and shopping malls, from Wednesday to the end of the month to check whether such facilities abide by virus restrictions.

To contain a recent rise in confirmed cases among foreign workers across the country, the city government issued an executive order requiring foreign workers to take virus tests.

The Gyeonggi provincial government also ordered companies operating in the province to only hire foreign workers who test negative for the virus from March 22 to April 22.

Asked whether the order may be discrimination against migrant workers, the authorities said it is not discrimination but a safety measure.

Foreigners in South Korea will be vaccinated under the country's vaccination program. They will get vaccine shots the same as locals.

The country has implemented Level 2 social distancing measures, the third-highest in the five-tier curbs, since February.

Under the measures, restaurants and other public facilities in the greater Seoul area can operate till 10 p.m., with other areas having no restrictions on business. But private gatherings of five or more people are banned.

Since the country's vaccination campaign began on Feb. 26, a total of 602,150 people, including 11,922 the previous day, have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots.

AstraZeneca's vaccine accounted for 575,289, while Pfizer's took up 26,861.

A total of 8,751 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, though 8,650 of them were mild symptoms.

A total of 16 deaths after vaccinations have been reported, according to the KCDC. But the agency said there was no causal relationship between the 14 deaths and the vaccinations.

According to the country's vaccination plan for the April-June period, a total of 12 million people will be vaccinated during the period.

The country aims to achieve herd immunity by November.

Health authorities will keep tabs on side effects of AstraZeneca's vaccine in Europe as some vaccine takers reported blood clots after vaccination.

Some European countries such as Germany, France and Italy suspended inoculations with AstraZeneca's vaccine due to safety concerns.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), European Union's medicine regulator, is scheduled to announce its review on the issue later this week.

Of the 345 locally transmitted cases, 75 came from Seoul and 146 were reported from Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, 40 km west of Seoul, reported 14 more cases. The three areas account for around half of the nation's population.

The number of imported cases came to 18, up from 12 the previous day. They included three from Indonesia and two from India.

The country added three more deaths, raising the total to 1,678. The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 103, up from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries moved up 501 to 88,255.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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