New cases below 2,000 for first time in 2 days, virus curbs extended for 2 weeks

New cases below 2,000 for first time in 2 days, virus curbs extended for 2 weeks
A COVID-19 screening station in southern Seoul is crowded with people on Aug. 20, 2021. (Yonhap)South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases fell below 2,000 for the first time in two days Saturday, while authorities are set to extend the tough restrictions to battle the fast surge of the virus driven by the more transmissible delta variant.

The country added 1,880 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,814 local infections, raising the total caseload to 234,739, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The daily caseload was down from 2,152 on Thursday and 2,052 on Friday.

Daily cases exceeded 1,000 on July 7 and have stayed above the mark for 46 days in a row amid the fast rise of the more transmissible delta variant.

The country added five more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,202.

The fourth wave of the pandemic has shown no signs of letup although stringent virus restrictions have been in place amid slower-than-expected vaccinations.

The wider Seoul area, where half of the nation’s 52 million population lives, has been under Level 4 restrictions, the highest in the four-tier virus curbs, for the past six weeks, while most other areas have implemented Level 3 distancing for the last four weeks.

While the current social distancing measures were set to expire Sunday, authorities decided to maintain the curbs until Sept. 5 as the fourth wave of the pandemic has yet to come under control.

Under the tougher measures that take effect Monday, restaurants and cafes will be required to close at 9 p.m., an hour earlier than the current nighttime curfew.

The semi-lockdown measures prohibit gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m., and ban the operation of nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

A total of 25.5 million people, or 49.7 percent of the population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 11.1 million have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

The government aims to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the nation’s population by September to create herd immunity in November, but the delayed vaccine supply by U.S. drugmaker Moderna has sparked concerns over the feasibility of its plan.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 518 were from Seoul, 585 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 90 from the western port city of Incheon.

The southeastern port city of Busan identified 86 new patients, and the North Gyeongsang Province had 109 more.

There were 66 imported cases, with 49 of them coming from Asian nations, excluding China.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 403, up 18 from a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 204,518, up 1,743 from the previous day. (Yonhap)

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