South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases exceed 240,000 for 3rd day
SEOUL — South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases stayed above 240,000 for the third consecutive day Sunday amid the fast spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The country reported 243,628 new COVID-19 infections, including 243,540 local cases, raising the total caseload to 4,456,264, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The daily tally fell from 254,327 cases Saturday and a record-high 266,853 cases Friday. Daily cases surpassed 200,000 for the first time Wednesday since the country reported the first virus case in January 2020.
The total COVID-19 caseload surpassed 4 million Saturday, just five days after reaching the 3 million mark. The total count surpassed the 1 million mark earlier this month, the KDCA said.
The surge in infections pushed up the numbers of COVID-19 deaths and critically ill patients.
The country added 161 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 8,957. The fatality rate was 0.20 percent.
The number of seriously ill virus patients fell to 885 from 896 a day earlier.
Health authorities have said the current wave is expected to peak at some 350,000 daily cases in around mid-March as the Omicron strain is raging across the nation.
But the government ditched rigorous contact tracing and treatment, and opted to focus more on dealing with serious cases and preventing deaths as Omicron is highly contagious but less fatal.
It also adopted enhanced at-home treatment and more use of rapid antigen self-test kits amid a shortage of medical staff and other resources.
Starting Saturday, the government eased part of the social distancing rules by extending the operating hours for 12 kinds of multiuse facilities, including cafes and restaurants, by one hour to 11 p.m. to better support small merchants.
The new curfew will be effective until March 20, and the current six-person cap on private gatherings will remain in place.
Of the locally transmitted cases reported, Seoul reported 49,449 new cases. The surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western city of Incheon added 66,833 and 14,854 new infections, respectively. Cases from overseas rose 88 to 29,744.
As of Sunday, 31.8 million people, or 62 percent of the country’s 52 million population, had received booster shots. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.39 million, accounting for 86.5 percent, according to the KDCA. (Yonhap)
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