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(LEAD) New infections under 1,000 for 2nd day amid extended virus curbs

Welfare/Medicine 10:15 December 28, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS 2nd photo and details in paras 5, 11-17)

SEOUL, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily caseload of new coronavirus infections stayed below 1,000 for the second straight day on Monday due mainly to less testing over the weekend amid tougher virus curbs that have been extended for another week.

The country added 808 more COVID-19 cases, including 787 local infections, raising the total caseload to 57,680, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The daily infections fell from 970 cases on Sunday. In the past week, the nation's daily virus cases hovered around 1,000.

This photo taken on Dec. 27, 2020, shows the Homigot Sunrise Square in Pohang, 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, which is temporarily closed to prevent people from coming to see the first sunrise of the year. (Yonhap)

Eleven people died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 819, with the fatality rate at 1.42 percent.

Adding woes to the country's battle against the pandemic, the KDCA confirmed a new, potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant from three people who arrived from Britain last Tuesday.

On Sunday, the KDCA extended the current Level 2.5 distancing measures in the capital area and the Level 2 restrictions in the rest of the country until Jan. 3 on concerns over the impact on the economy.

Health authorities will decide whether to move on to Level 3, the highest in its five-tier scheme, on Jan. 3.

Instead of applying measures that would deal a heavy blow to millions of small merchants, health authorities have deployed "targeted" virus curbs.

Since last Wednesday, the greater Seoul area has banned gatherings of five or more people. Restaurants in the greater Seoul area face a fine if they allow gatherings of more than four people. The strongest-ever measures have been applied nationwide since last Thursday as well.

Ski resorts and famous tourism venues were shut down to slow the spread of the virus during the Christmas and New Year's holiday season.

Cars line up at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center in Seoul on Dec. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea has been applying Level 2.5 social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area, home to half of its 51.6 million population, and Level 2 rules in the rest of the country.

Of the newly identified local infections, 297 cases were reported in Seoul and 188 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, west of Seoul, reported 45 more cases.

Other municipalities reported new infections, with the country's largest port city of Busan adding 34 cases and North Gyeongsang Province reporting 45 new cases.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients reached 295, up from 293 a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 39,268, up 228 from the previous day.

The country, meanwhile, added 21 imported cases, increasing the total to 5,318. Ten cases came from Asian countries except for China, followed by five from the United States and five from Europe.

The country has carried out 4,038,307 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3, including 31,895 tests in the past 24 hours. The country reported its first case on Jan. 20.

This photo taken on Dec. 27, 2020, shows quarantine officials guiding incoming passengers at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, just west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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