New virus infections stay in 1,400s for 2nd day on fewer tests

SEOUL-- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases remained in the mid-1,400s for the second day in a row Sunday on fewer tests over the weekend amid concerns about increased cases in non-capital areas, the imminent summer holiday season and the prevalence of the delta variant from India.

The country added 1,454 COVID-19 cases, an all-time high for a Sunday, including 1,402 local infections, raising the total caseload to 177,951, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The figure was down one from 1,455 on Saturday. The daily caseload has stayed above the 1,000 mark since July 7 on the back of a surge in confirmed new cases in the greater Seoul area. It hit a new high of 1,615 on Wednesday.

The country added two more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2,057. The fatality rate came to 1.16 percent.

As of 9 p.m. on Sunday, the country posted 1,192 new infections, down 186 from the same time the previous day. Of them, 820, or 68.8 percent, were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, including 420 in the capital and 333 in Gyeonggi Province.

The greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's 51.34 million population, has emerged as the hot spot for the recent spike in confirmed new cases.

Under the highest level of four-tier social distancing measures in the region since Monday, gatherings of more than two people are prohibited after 6 p.m., with entertainment facilities, such as nightclubs and bars, ordered to close and restaurants only allowed to operate till 10 p.m.

As new cases rose in regions outside the Seoul metropolitan area, the health authorities said Sunday they will ban gatherings of more than four people in those regions, starting Monday until Aug. 1.

The authorities said there will be some exceptions, including cases of family members living at the same residence; children, old people and others in need of care; those caring for patients on their deathbeds; and first-birthday banquets.

The reproduction rate, which refers to the number of people a single patient can infect, came to 1.32, up from the previous rate of 1.24, the health authorities said.

The authorities voiced concerns over the increase in cases of COVID-19 variants, noting the delta variant, first identified in India, comprised about 34 percent.

A total of 16.13 million people, or 31.4 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines as of Sunday.

The KDCA added that 6.56 million people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for 12.8 percent of the population.

Starting Monday, the health authorities will administer the first dose of Pfizer vaccines to high school seniors and teachers across the country.

Teachers and high school seniors, totaling 650,000, were selected as preferential groups for vaccinations as the students are slated to take the national college entrance exam in mid-November.

They are scheduled to get their second dose of the vaccines by mid-August.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 523 were from Seoul, 373 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 83 from the western port city of Incheon.

The southeastern port city of Busan added 70 new cases, and its neighboring South Gyeongsang Province found 99 more.

Daejeon saw a new case of group infections traced to a taekwondo academy. A total of 47 people related to the academy tested positive for COVID-19, after its chief was confirmed to have contracted the virus Saturday.

Imported cases, which also include South Korean nationals from overseas, came to 52.

By country, 12 cases came from arrivals from Indonesia, trailed by those from the Philippines and Indonesia with seven each.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 158,953, up 993 from a day earlier. This indicates around 89.3 percent of the patients reported here have been fully cured.

The number of patients in critical condition came to 187, down two from the previous day.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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