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(LEAD) New virus cases in 300s again on fewer tests; cluster infections worrisome

All News 09:55 February 22, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases dipped below 400 on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend, but a series of cluster infections at plants and hospitals continued to pile up.

The country reported 332 more COVID-19 cases, including 313 local infections, raising the total caseload to 87,324, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Monday's daily caseload marks the lowest in a week. The country added five more deaths, raising the total to 1,562. The fatality rate reached 1.79 percent.

Last week, South Korea reported more than 600 daily virus cases, before the number fell to 561 on Friday. The figure stayed below 500 over the weekend, reaching 448 on Saturday and 416 on Sunday.

Although the figures are far below the record high of 1,240 reported on Dec. 25, health authorities are still concerned that the country may suffer yet another uptick in the number of virus cases in the aftermath of the Lunar New Year's holiday, coupled with the eased social distancing rules in place since last week.

A medical worker carries out COVID-19 tests at a makeshift clinic in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

A medical worker carries out COVID-19 tests at a makeshift clinic in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Currently, the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the nation's 52 million population, is under Level 2 distancing -- the third highest in a five-tier system -- and other areas at Level 1.5.

The current virus curbs allow restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, nightclubs and bars in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province to remain open for an hour longer until 10 p.m.

South Korea plans to revise the current distancing scheme as early as March by simplifying its five-tier virus curbs to ease burdens on small business owners.

But the new social distancing measures may not be applied unless the virus curve sharply flattens. The reproduction rate in the greater Seoul area reached 1.1 last week, indicating that a single COVID-19 patient transmits the virus to more than one person.

Of the 313 locally transmitted cases, 102 cases were reported in Seoul and 116 in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.

Incheon, west of Seoul, accounted for 18 cases, with the southeastern port city of Busan adding 12 infections.

A hospital from central Seoul reported 206 patients as of Sunday. A manufacturing factory from Namyangju, northeast of the capital city, identified 162 cases so far as well.

Imported cases came to 19.

Of the cases, the United States accounted for six, followed by the Philippines with three.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 146, down nine from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 77,887, up 371 from a day earlier.

The country has carried out 6,429,144 COVID-19 tests so far, including 17,804 from the previous day.

Citizens wait to receive COVID-19 tests at a makeshift clinic in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Citizens wait to receive COVID-19 tests at a makeshift clinic in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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