S. Korea likely to report record high of over 1,400 coronavirus cases Wednesday

SEOUL-- South Korea confirmed 1,288 new COVID-19 cases for the first 18 hours of Tuesday, up 385 from the same time a day earlier.

The number raises the possibility that local health authorities will announce the highest daily count Wednesday since the outbreak of the virus in the nation. It is likely to reach at least 1,400.

The previous high of 1,378 was posted last Saturday.

Among the additional cases confirmed as of 6 p.m., 563 were reported in Seoul, which is the record high number for that time, 373 in Gyeonggi Province and 81 in Incheon.

Concerns have grown here over a further uptick in new infections amid the fast spread of the more contagious delta variant and the summer season despite toughened virus curbs.

Earlier Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that 1,150 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,097 local infections, were confirmed nationwide throughout the previous day.

The total caseload increased to 170,296.

The country added two more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2,046. The fatality rate came to 1.2 percent.

As the delta variant is spreading fast and the summer vacation season is near, the KDCA warned that daily virus cases may rise to the mid-2,000s in mid-August.

Over the past week, the country identified 536 more cases of COVID-19 variants, with the delta variant taking up around 70 percent.

The KDCA said South Koreans in their 20s had the highest infection rate per 100,000 people among other age groups at 5.2 in the first week of July. The figure far exceeds the 3.4 for those in their 50s.

The reproduction rate, which refers to the number of people a single patient can infect, came to 1.24.

Infections with unknown transmission routes also accounted for around a third of newly added cases over the past week, further raising concerns over asymptomatic patients.

In an effort to flatten the virus curve, the country implemented a semi-lockdown in the greater Seoul area, home to around half of the nation's population, under which gatherings of more than two people are banned after 6 p.m.

Under the highest social distancing measures of Level 4, entertainment establishments, including nightclubs and bars, are ordered to shut down in the capital area, while restaurants are allowed to have dine-in customers only until 10 p.m.

Areas other than the capital region are under Level 1 in principle, but major cities, including Busan and Daejeon, implemented tougher measures amid a steady rise in new infections outside Seoul.

South Korea plans to announce social distancing measures for areas outside the capital area Wednesday.

While authorities believe the country's inoculation program will help reduce daily cases to as low as the 600s by the end of next month, the nation has been slow in offering vaccine shots.

A total of 15.6 million people, or 30.4 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, remaining almost unchanged from 29.8 percent tallied at end-June.

The KDCA said 5.9 million people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for 11.6 percent of the population.

The efficacy rate of Janssen's single-shot vaccine, meanwhile, was estimated at 92.8 percent here, the KDCA said. Around 1.13 million people received the jabs.

Amid a tight supply of COVID-19 vaccines, 799,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine will arrive here Wednesday.

The number of patients infected with COVID-19 after completing their inoculations came to 252 so far.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 414 were from Seoul, 313 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 67 from the western port city of Incheon.

The southeastern port city of Busan reported 47 new infections, and Daegu, 302 kilometers south of Seoul, added 36 more.

There were 53 additional imported cases.

Imported cases were mostly traced to Asian countries, with Indonesia accounting for 17 patients. Arrivals from Uzbekistan also took up five.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 154,752, up 565 from a day earlier. This indicates 90.87 percent of the patients reported here have been cured.

The number of patients in critical condition came to 146, up eight from the previous day.

South Korea has carried out 10,964,299 COVID-19 tests so far, including 44,401 the previous day.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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