New infections under 1,000 for 2nd day amid extended tighter distancing rules

SEOUL, South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases stayed below 1,000 for the second day in a row Sunday, largely due to less testing on the New Year’s Day holiday, as health authorities kept tight vigilance with the extension of the current social distancing rules.
The country added 657 more COVID-19 cases, including 641 local infections, raising the total caseload to 63,244, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Daily infections fell from 824 cases a day earlier. Over the past seven days, the nation’s daily virus cases have hovered around 1,000.
Twenty people died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 962.
On Saturday, health authorities extended the current Level 2.5 distancing measures — the second highest in the five-tier scheme — for the greater Seoul area and Level 2 for the rest of the country until Jan. 17.
South Korea also decided to apply the ban to private gatherings of five or more people, which has been in place for the greater Seoul area, to the rest of the country.
The KDCA opted not to raise distancing to the highest Level 3 in consideration of its impact on the local economy, as the daily virus tallies have hovered around 1,000 without a sudden upsurge — an apparent sign that social distancing efforts are paying off.
The health agency struggled to avoid resorting to the most stringent Level 3 distancing level, which would mean serious restrictions on millions of small merchants and other businesses.
Even under Level 2.5, eateries and other shops have felt the pinch of social distancing. Restaurants can operate normally only until 9 p.m., after which, only takeout or delivery services are allowed, while cafes can only sell takeout beverages.
Of the newly identified local infections, 195 cases were reported in Seoul and 201 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, west of Seoul, reported 48 more cases.
The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients reached 355 on Sunday, compared with 361 from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 44,507, up 929 from the previous day.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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