SEOUL, March 14 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases stayed above 400 for the sixth consecutive day Sunday as health authorities struggled to bring down infections amid a nationwide vaccination campaign.
The country reported 459 more COVID-19 cases, including 436 local infections, raising the total caseload to 95,635, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The country added two more deaths from COVID-19, increasing the total to 1,669. One fatality came from a patient in his or her 20s, the second time in the country that an individual under 30 has died from the virus.
The daily caseload has stayed in the 400s, with 465 cases Thursday, 488 Friday and 490 Saturday, the highest since Feb. 19, stoking concerns about a virus resurgence.
The daily tally had been on the downward trend since peaking late last year on the back of strong virus curbs, including a ban on private gatherings of five or more people.
But the virus curve did not sharply flatten, with the daily caseload stuck in the 300s and 400s over the past few weeks due to sporadic cluster infections and an increase in people traveling amid warmer weather.
Later in the day, health authorities and local governments said 356 new cases were confirmed as of 9 p.m. Sunday, down 44 from the number recorded at the same time the previous day. Daily tallies are counted through midnight and announced the next morning.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the country will give its utmost effort to bring daily virus cases down to the 200 range in the next two weeks, declaring a “special virus prevention period.”
“We must look back on ourselves that the country may have become too insensitive about reporting hundreds of new virus cases per day,” he said. “We should not be complacent with this situation.”
Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, told reporters that the spread of the virus recently showed signs of expanding.
Last week, the reproduction rate of the virus stood at 1.07, which indicates that a single COVID-19 patient transmits the disease to more than one person. The rate was estimated at 0.94 a week earlier, Sohn said.
South Korea’s vaccination campaign, which started Feb. 26 with workers and patients at nursing homes and medical institutions, has picked up steam, with around 1.13 percent of the country’s 52 million population receiving their first jabs.
A total of 587,884 people, including 3,487 the previous day, have been inoculated.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine accounted for 561,785, while Pfizer’s took up 26,099.
The KDCA said 74.2 percent of COVID-19 vaccination priority groups scheduled to be inoculated in the first quarter have received their first shots.
South Korea aims to achieve herd immunity by November.
Health authorities said the country’s general public will begin getting vaccinated in April, with those aged 65 and older given priority. Details of the expanded vaccination program will be announced Monday.
A total of 8,520 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported so far, up 198 from a day earlier, although 8,423 of them were mild symptoms.
One more suspected case of anaphylactoid reaction, which has similar symptoms to anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction after immunization, has been reported, raising the total of such cases to 73.
There has been also one suspected case of anaphylaxis shock.
Health authorities are looking into 16 cases of deaths reported after vaccinations, adding that a potential causal relationship between the vaccinations and the deaths will be investigated.
So far, they have concluded that eight of the deaths appear to have no connection with the inoculations.
To further contain the virus’ spread, health authorities decided to extend the current virus curb measures until March 28.
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.
Of the new locally transmitted cases, 108 additional cases were reported in Seoul and 199 in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, identified 19 new cases.
Among virus clusters, a high school in eastern Seoul added three more cases, raising its total to 27.
A restaurant in northern Seoul reported three additional cases to raise its caseload to 26.
The number of cases tied to a college student meeting in Daegu increased by five to 41. Infections traced to a bathhouse in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, added 40 more cases to 133.
There were an additional 23 imported cases, increasing the total caseload to 7,306. Of the new imported cases, six were from the United States, followed by Pakistan with three.
The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 105, down seven from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 87,408, up 783 from a day earlier, with 6,558 people being isolated for COVID-19 treatment, down 326 from a day ago.
South Korea has carried out 7,066,401 COVID-19 tests, including 19,619 from the previous day.