SEOUL, April 25 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases dropped to the 30,000s on Monday for the first time in 76 days as most of the country’s virus restrictions are lifted amid the slowdown of the omicron wave.
The country added 34,370 new COVID-19 infections, including 31 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 16,929,564, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The omicron wave has been on the decline after the country’s daily infections reached the peak of 621,178 cases on March 17.
The death toll from COVID-19 came to 22,243, up 110 from the previous day. The fatality rate was 0.13 percent. The number of critically ill patients came to 668, down 53 from a day earlier.
Health authorities and local governments had reported 75,944 new cases as of 9 p.m., up 42,484 from the same time the previous day. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
To reflect the weakening pandemic, health authorities downgraded COVID-19 to the second-highest level of the four-tier infectious disease control system earlier in the day.
Under the eased rules, eating and drinking on public transit, theaters, religious facilities and indoor stadiums are allowed.
Starting this week, the government will also begin discussing on whether to lift the mask mandate in outdoor places, although no decision has been made yet, the KDCA said.
Currently, wearing mask is mandatory indoors and outdoors where a distance of two meters or more is not possible.
Under the changed policy, coronavirus patients will be free of mandatory self-quarantine and can receive treatment at local clinics as early as late May.
The government also will temporarily lift visitation restrictions at nursing homes and senior care hospitals for three weeks starting April 30.
Currently, in-person visits without any barriers are strictly prohibited to protect the elderly from the virus.
Those who have recently recovered from the coronavirus can visit their family members at such facilities and have physical contact with them, as long as they are fully vaccinated.
If a visitor has not been infected, he or she should receive a booster shot, and their elderly family member should receive a second booster shot.
The temporary policy runs until May 22.
Of the locally transmitted infections, Seoul reported 4,763 cases and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province added 9,058 cases, the KDCA said.
As of midnight Sunday, 44.54 million, or 86.8 percent of the 52 million population, had been fully vaccinated, and 33.07 million, or 64.4 percent, had received their first COVID-19 booster shots, the KDCA said.
A total of 836,753 people, or 1.6 percent of the population, have received second booster shots across the country. Nearly 90 percent of them were aged 60 and older.