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(LEAD) New virus cases above 300 again ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

All News 09:50 February 09, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS details in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported a slight rise in daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday as new clusters of infection continued to emerge, with health authorities being on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The country added 303 more COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, including 273 local infections, raising the total caseload to 81,487, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

It marked an uptick from Monday's 289 new cases, which were the lowest daily infections since Nov. 23 last year.

South Korea added eight more deaths, raising the total to 1,482.

A quarantine official attaches a sticker to the shoulder of a passenger from abroad at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

Since late last month, the local daily caseload has been moving in the 300-400 range due to cluster infections from unauthorized education facilities run by a Christian missionary group in the central and southwestern regions.

New virus infections have been slowing down since the third wave of the pandemic peaked at a record high of 1,241 daily cases on Dec. 25.

With small business owners strongly protesting the country's tough social distancing scheme, which currently bans restaurants from having dine-in customers after 9 p.m., a revised guideline was implemented from Monday.

The new rules extended operating hours of restaurants, cafes, bars and fitness clubs outside the Seoul metropolitan region by one hour to 10 p.m. The 9 p.m. closing was maintained for Seoul and the surrounding areas.

Health authorities, however, are on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday that runs from Thursday to Saturday. Millions of South Koreans normally travel across the country to visit their relatives and families.

Accordingly, other social distancing guidelines, including the ban on gatherings of five or more people, will be maintained through next Sunday.

People wait in line to receive tests at an outdoor COVID-19 testing station at the National Medical Center in Seoul on Feb. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korea has so far identified 54 cases of COVID-19 variants, known to be much more contagious.

Of the newly identified local infections, 86 cases were reported in Seoul and 111 cases in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, reported 14 more cases. The three regions represent around half of the nation's population.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients reached 189, up one from a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was up 458 from the previous day to reach 71,676.


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