New virus cases dip to 1,400s on fewer tests; tough restrictions extended

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South Korea’s daily new coronavirus cases fell to the 1,400s on Sunday due to fewer tests over the weekend, while health authorities extended the tough restrictions ahead of a major national holiday.

The country added 1,490 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,461 local infections, raising the total caseload to 260,403, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The latest tally is down from 1,804 on Saturday and 1,709 on Friday.

Daily cases have stayed above 1,000 for the last two months.

The country added six more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,321.

Health authorities have been stepping up anti-virus efforts as the pandemic has shown few signs of abating due in large part to the spread of more transmissible COVID-19 strains, including the delta variant.

Ahead of the coming five-day weekend that includes Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, the government decided to keep the current distancing measures — Level 4 in the greater Seoul area, which is the highest in the four-tier system, and Level 3 in other regions — through Oct. 3.

But some of the restrictions will be eased.

The country has been banning gatherings of more than four people nationwide, but health authorities have decided to allow gatherings of up to six in the capital area, though they should include at least two vaccinated people during the daytime and four after 6 p.m.

Nearly 30 million people, or 58.4 percent of the country’s 52 million population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 17.7 million people, or 34.6 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

The country plans to provide at least one jab to 70 percent of the population by the end of September to create herd immunity in November. South Korea’s inoculation program, however, recently has been challenged by a delayed supply of shots.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 505 were from Seoul, 441 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 98 from the western port city of Incheon, the authorities said.

Imported cases, which include South Korean nationals, came to 29.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 363, down 13 from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 232,334, up 1,929 from a day earlier.