New virus cases fall below 500 ahead of revised social distancing rules

SEOUL, South Korea's new coronavirus cases dipped below 500 on Saturday as the country's vaccination campaign gains pace and the government prepares to announce a revised social distancing scheme.

The country reported 482 new cases, including 456 local infections, raising the total caseload to 150,720, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The past three days saw case numbers in their 500s, although before that the country reported 452, 399 and 373 infections from Sunday to Tuesday, respectively.

The country added one COVID-19 death Saturday, raising the death toll to 1,997.

As of 9 p.m., 399 new cases, including 164 from Seoul, were reported, down by 53 from the same time the previous day.

Health authorities are set to announce a new four-tier social distancing scheme Sunday, which will likely include eased restrictions on businesses.

Under the current five-tier scheme, the greater Seoul area, Daegu and Jeju Island are under the third-highest Level 2, while the rest of the nation is under the fourth-highest Level 1.5. A nationwide ban on private gatherings of five or more people remains in place. The current rules are set to expire July 4.

The KDCA said Friday that new infections appeared to be slowing as the country's vaccination campaign gains pace.

In recent months, the daily caseload has swung between the 300s and 700s.

Nearly 14.77 million people, or 28.8 percent, of the country's population of 51.3 million, have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.

The KDCA said more than 4 million people, or 7.8 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

The country now aims to inoculate 36 million, or around 70 percent of the population, with at least one jab by September to achieve herd immunity in November.

Of the 456 newly confirmed locally transmitted cases, 193 came from Seoul, 141 from Gyeonggi Province and 20 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital. The capital area accounted for 354, or 77.6 percent, of the new cases.

Infections were traced to a gym and a restaurant in Seoul, a Catholic church in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, and a day care center in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, among other places.

Two delivery workers who participated in a massive rally in Seoul earlier this week also tested positive. Testing is under way on all 4,000 or so participants and all 900 or more police officers who were deployed to the scene.

The KDCA counted 26 more imported cases, with eight being South Korean nationals and 18 foreigners.

By country of departure, the largest number, seven, were from Indonesia, followed by five from the United States, three from India, two each from Uzbekistan and Kenya, and one each from China, Cambodia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Russia, Nepal and Poland.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 142,385, up 569 from a day earlier.

Source: Yohnap News Agency

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