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New infections back under 400, virus fight hampered by rising variants, pandemic fatigue

21 June 2021 13:36

SEOUL. KAZINFORM South Korea's new coronavirus cases fell below 400 in about a week on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend, but rising COVID-19 variant cases, along with pandemic fatigue, are hampering the country's virus battle amid the accelerating vaccinations.

The country reported 357 new cases, including 317 local infections, raising the total caseload to 151,506, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, Yonhap reports.

Daily infections stayed in the 400s or 500s in the past five days after reporting 373 cases on June 15.

The country added two COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2004. The fatality rate came to 1.32 percent.

In a daily briefing, the KDCA said the number of daily cases appears to be on the decline given the trend in the past two weeks.

«We expect daily infections will decline further in July given the country's accelerating vaccination rate,» a KDCA official said.

But he remained cautious about a possible spike in new cases in the greater Seoul area next month due to the population density and increasing outdoor activities.

On Sunday, health authorities unveiled its new social distancing scheme, which allows businesses to stay open longer and permits gatherings of more people.

The move came as the country's vaccination drive is gaining traction.

Currently, the greater Seoul area is under Level 2 distancing in the five-level scheme, while the rest of the country is under Level 1.5. Private gatherings of five or more are banned nationwide.

Under the new four-tier system, restaurants and cafes in the capital area will be permitted to operate until midnight under Level 2, an extension from the current restrictions of 10 p.m.

The nationwide ban on gatherings of five or more people will be lifted under the renewed guidelines, with the ceiling set to be raised to eight under Level 2. No restrictions are applied under Level 1.

In the greater Seoul area, the ceiling will initially be set at six people over a two-week transition period.

Amid the nationwide vaccination drive, a total of 15.01 million people, or 29.2 percent of the country's 51.3 million population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines. Four million, or 7.9 percent of the population, were fully inoculated as of Monday.

The country aims to inoculate 36 million with at least one jab by September to achieve herd immunity in November.

South Korea has beefed up its vaccine arsenal, currently administering two-part vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, as well as Janssen's single-dose vaccine. Moderna's vaccine is set to be given soon after completing its approval process earlier last week.

Novavax's vaccine will be introduced pending its approval.

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