New virus cases remain in 2,000s despite beefed-up vigilance

SEOUL, South Korea's daily coronavirus cases stayed in the 2,000s Saturday, though authorities kept tight vigilance with the extension of tough virus curbs ahead of back-to-back extended weekends later this month.

The country reported 2,248 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,221 local infections, bringing the total caseload to 316,020, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

There were seven more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,504. The fatality rate stood at 0.79 percent.

The latest tally was down from 2,486 reported the previous day and 2,564 on Thursday. The daily infection count has stayed in the 2,000s since Sept. 24.

Meanwhile, 1,877 additional cases were confirmed nationwide as of 9 p.m. Saturday, down 193 from the same time the previous day, health authorities and local governments said. It raises the possibility that the KDCA will report a daily count of around 2,000 in its regular briefing slated for Sunday morning.

Of the infections, 1,364, or 72.7 percent, were reported in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon.

The country's latest wave of the pandemic has worsened following the Chuseok holiday, the Korean autumn harvest celebration, last week, with daily new cases reaching a record high of 3,273 on Sept. 25.

To stem the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday that the country will maintain the current social distancing measures, which restrict the number of people in private gatherings, for two more weeks starting Monday.

The greater Seoul area has been under Level 4 distancing measures, the highest in the country's four-tier system, since July, while other areas are under Level 3.

Under current rules, cafes and restaurants in the capital area are allowed to open until 10 p.m., and gatherings of up to six people are allowed in the capital area after 6 p.m. if four of them are fully vaccinated.

The extension of the restrictions comes before two extended weekends this month, which could further fuel the spread of the virus. Authorities have been striving to stabilize the pandemic situation, as they seek a "recovery to normal life" later this year when a vast majority of the population gets fully vaccinated.

A total of 39.58 million people, or 77.1 percent of the country's population, have so far received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 26.57 million people, or 51.8 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

So far, 283,392 cases of suspected post-vaccination side effects have been reported, with 12,736 added in the latest tally. More than 96 percent of the cases involved mild symptoms, such as muscle pain and fever.

There have been 713 deaths after vaccination, though the authorities have yet to find a causal relationship between receiving a vaccine and death in most cases.

Accelerating Seoul's vaccine supply efforts, a plane carrying 436,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine arrived at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, at 2:36 p.m. Korea purchased the doses from Romania.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 785 cases were reported from Seoul, with cases from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province tallied at 757.

Despite virus curbs, cluster infections continued to crop up.

The total number of virus cases traced to a private educational institute in Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, rose to 37, while the number of cases linked to a psychiatric hospital in Osan, south of Seoul, rose to 35.

New cases from overseas arrivals, which include South Koreans, came to 27. Of the total, one was presumably from China, 15 from other parts of Asia and five from Europe, the authorities said.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 336, up 13 from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 277,092, up 1,516 from a day earlier.

Meanwhile, the defense ministry reported eight more COVID-19 cases among service members and military employees, bringing the total caseload to 1,784. Of the new cases, seven were breakthrough infections.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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