New Virus Cases Near 500, Reaching 3-week High | Be Korea-savvy

New Virus Cases Near 500, Reaching 3-week High

Medical workers wait in line for a vaccine shot on March 11, 2021. (Yonhap)

Medical workers wait in line for a vaccine shot on March 11, 2021. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, March 13 (Korea Bizwire) South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases reached the highest in 22 days Saturday, stubbornly remaining above 400 for the fifth consecutive day.

The country reported 490 more COVID-19 cases, including 474 local infections, raising the total caseload to 95,176, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The country added five more deaths from COVID-19, increasing the total to 1,667.

The daily caseload has stayed in the 400s since early this week, with 470 cases Wednesday, 465 cases Thursday and 488 Friday, stoking concerns about the resurgent virus. The latest figure is the highest since Feb. 19, when the country confirmed 561 cases.

Later in the day, health authorities and local governments said 400 new cases were confirmed from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, down 62 from the same time the previous day. Daily tallies are counted until midnight and announced the next morning.

The tally had been steadily declining since it reached its peak on Christmas with 1,241 cases on the back of strong virus curbs, including a ban on private gatherings of five or more people.

But the country has recently struggled to further flatten the virus curve, with the daily figure stuck in the 300s and 400s over the past few weeks amid a spate of new cluster infections and increasing travel due to warmer weather.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise outside the capital area as well, tied to clusters of infections at widely used public facilities, such as saunas and gyms.

More than 90 cases linked to a bathhouse in the southern city of Jinju have been recently confirmed, prompting the city government to order the establishment to suspend operations for two weeks and hundreds of its patrons and their contacts to get tested.

The municipality later issued the same order to all 98 bathhouses in the city, effective as of Saturday.

The government earlier announced it will maintain the current virus curb measures, originally set to expire Sunday, until March 28 to contain the virus’s spread.

The measures include attendance caps at schools, religious activities and sports events.

The greater Seoul area is currently under the Level 2 social distancing scheme, the third highest in the country’s five-tier system, while other regions are placed under Level 1.5.

The country is also working to finalize a new four-tier social distancing system by the end of this month. Authorities say the revamped virus curbs, however, will only be implemented after the virus cases fall significantly.

This photo provided by Gaeun Hospital shows a son (standing and in full protective gear) meeting with his ailing mother at the hospital in Bucheon, west of Seoul, on March 9, 2021.

This photo provided by Gaeun Hospital shows a son (standing and in full protective gear) meeting with his ailing mother at the hospital in Bucheon, west of Seoul, on March 9, 2021.

South Korea’s vaccination campaign, which started Feb. 26, has picked up steam, with 1 percent of the country’s 52 million population receiving their first jabs.

A total of 583,658 people, including 37,381 the previous day, have been inoculated.

The country approved the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people aged 65 and older based on new overseas studies Thursday. Health authorities initially excluded the age group from the pharmaceutical company’s vaccine, citing insufficient data.

Amid a number of blood clotting complications reported overseas after administration of some AstraZeneca vaccines, KDCA officials stated that they have not received any reports of such side effects in South Korea.

“We will closely monitor reports of side effects from overseas and swiftly deal with such cases if they occur here,” said a health ministry official who handles the government’s public vaccine program.

On Saturday, the government said the country’s general public will begin being vaccinated in April, with those aged 65 and older given priority.

South Korea aims to achieve herd immunity by November.

Of the 474 locally transmitted cases, 138 additional cases were reported in Seoul and 160 in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, identified 26 new cases.

The three areas, which make up the greater capital region and serve as home to about half of the nation’s 52 million population, accounted for 68.4 percent of the new local cases.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 16 imported cases, increasing the total to 7,283.

Of the newly imported cases, 10 were foreigners, including three Americans and six were South Koreans.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 126, down by one from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 86,625, up 882 from a day earlier.

The test positivity rate came to 1.44 percent, slightly rising from 1.37 percent from a day ago. The nation’s average positivity rate is 1.35 percent.


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