SEOUL, July 11 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s new coronavirus cases fell to below 15,000 on Monday due mainly to fewer tests over the weekend amid rising concerns about a recent resurgence in infections.
The country added 12,693 new COVID-19 infections, including 180 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,524,583, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Monday’s figure nearly doubled from 6,253 cases logged a week earlier, as the country has seen an upturn in infections from end-June.
The KDCA reported 18 deaths from the virus, putting the death toll at 24,661. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients came to 71 on Monday, up from the previous day’s 67.
As of 9 p.m. Monday, local governments had reported 35,805 new cases, up 23,592 from the same time on the previous day. The figure more than doubled from 17,146 posted at the same time a week ago.
It is the first time in about eight weeks that the tally for 9 p.m. has topped 30,000.
Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
The new infections dropped markedly from the peak of more than 620,000 in mid-March but have risen again from end-June to hit over 10,000 on June 29 and hover over 20,000 for two days in a row from Saturday.
Health authorities confirmed the country has entered a new wave of COVID-19, citing the fast spread of the highly contagious mutation of the omicron strains, and experts have warned the daily count could surge to around 200,000 next month.
The new subvariant BA.5 has been spreading fast, with its proportion of the country’s total infections rising to 24.1 percent in the fifth week of June from the previous week’s 10.4 percent.
The authorities expected BA.5, which is known to be more contagious and better able to escape immunity, to become a dominant COVID-19 variant in the country soon.
The other factor behind the resurgence is declining immunity, as the protection by a vaccine or an infection decreases over time.
The growth in outdoor activities after eased social distancing rules and the increased usage of indoor air conditioning systems over an early heat wave also caused the country to see an upward trend, experts said.
In line with the resurgence, the government is discussing a new set of antivirus measures, which are expected to be announced Wednesday, according to officials.
In April, the government removed almost all strict antivirus rules to support the people’s return to normalcy, including private gathering limits and business hour curfews.