(ATTN: UPDATES with more information, additional remarks from officials in paras 10-16)
SEOUL, May 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported three more cases of the new coronavirus Tuesday, but all from other countries with no locally transmitted cases.
The three imported cases put the total number of infection cases here at 10,804, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The country has reported no locally transmitted cases for two consecutive days.
The three new cases also mark the lowest daily figure in 77 days since Feb. 18 when the country reported two new cases of COVID-19.
Also, South Korea has now reported fewer than 10 new infection cases per day for six consecutive days.
With the possible slowdown in the spread of the disease here, the Seoul government has decided to relax its monthslong social distancing campaign starting Wednesday.
School will begin opening to students in phases next Wednesday, while the government will shift its social distancing campaign to what it calls an "everyday-life quarantine scheme" this week.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo, however, said the move does not indicate an end of the outbreak.
"Social distancing in everyday life does not mean the termination of COVID-19," Park said in a Seoul meeting held earlier Tuesday. "It means each and every one of the citizens is now responsible for his or her own hygiene."
President Moon Jae-in praised the government and its social distancing campaign.
"We still may not lower our guard, but the COVID-19 crisis is fast becoming stabilized," the president said in a message posted on his social networking service accounts.
"South Korea's quarantine steps have become global standards, and the country will switch to social distancing in everyday life tomorrow," he added.
The number of new infection cases began to shrink after the government launched the nationwide campaign in early March when the country daily reported hundreds of new cases.
The number of new cases has dipped to an average 9.1 per day since late April, according to the KCDC.
With such a drop in the number of new cases, the government is now considering lowering its warning by a notch from the highest level of four, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip told a daily press briefing.
"I believe there will be no major changes to government steps even if the warning level is reduced," he said.
So far, 9,283 patients here have been released after making full recoveries, up 66 from a day earlier, according to the KCDC.
The country's death toll came to 254, up two from Monday.
The country has so far tested 640,237 people for COVID-19. Over 96 percent, or 620,575 of them, have tested negative.
With a steady decline in the number of patients, the government plans to further reduce the number of hospitals and beds earmarked for COVID-19 patients.
It currently has 5,533 hospital beds specifically reserved for coronavirus patients, 4,649 of which are currently vacant, according to the vice health minister.
The number will be reduced to 3,808, with 2,924 of them immediately available to patients.
"However, those that will be switched to beds for patients with non-transmittable diseases will immediately be redesignated if needed," Kim said.
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