New infections under 2,000 for 2nd day amid concerns over spread during holidays

SEOUL-- South Korea's daily new COVID-19 cases remained below 2,000 for a second straight day Sunday amid concerns over the spread of the virus during and after another extended weekend.

The country added 1,594 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,560 local infections, raising the total caseload to 331,519, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Daily infections fell below the 2,000 mark Saturday after reporting more than 2,000 cases per day from Wednesday to Friday. The daily figure fell to 1,575 on Tuesday on fewer tests due to an extended weekend that included the National Foundation Day.

The country added 15 more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,575. The fatality rate was 0.78 percent.

Health officials and local governments said 1,274 new cases had been confirmed as of 9 p.m. Sunday, down by 191 from the same time Saturday. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

These numbers have tended to drop on weekends and holidays because of fewer tests, only to bounce back up during the week.

Health authorities stay on alert over a possible spike 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 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.

This week, the government plans to set up a committee for a strategy on the "New Normal" of "living with COVID-19," with the vaccination campaign picking up speed, according to health authorities.

The government plans to hold the inaugural meeting of the committee later this week, presided over by Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum.

Private sector experts are expected to participate in the meeting with government officials to discuss ways to carry out the envisioned transition in the economic, education, security, coronavirus control and quarantine sectors.

Based on the discussions, the government is poised to draw up a road map to get people's virus-hit lives back to normal on a gradual basis.

The KDCA said 39.92 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 30.43 million, or 59.3 percent.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 579 new cases, with Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city reporting 541 cases and Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, reporting 94 cases.

The number of new imported cases came to 34, bringing the total to 14,711.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 377, down from 384 the previous day, the KDCA said.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 296,708, up 1,779 from a day earlier.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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