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(LEAD) New virus cases in 300s for 2nd day, cluster infections still worrisome

All News 10:02 March 01, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5, 8, 12, 14, 16)

SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases stayed below 400 for the second straight day Monday, but health authorities remained alert over a continued rise in cluster infections ahead of the start of the spring school semester.

The country reported 355 more COVID-19 cases, including 338 local infections, raising the total caseload to 90,029, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The tally was lower than the 356 recorded Sunday and 415 on Saturday.

The fall in new cases largely appeared to be due to fewer tests over the weekend. The country added two more deaths, raising the total to 1,605

South Korea's total COVID-19 cases topped 90,000, about 13 months after its first confirmed case on Jan. 20, 2020.

A health worker prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in central Seoul on Feb. 27, 2021. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

New virus cases somewhat slowed compared with the third wave of the pandemic peaking at a record high of 1,241 on Dec. 25.

But a continued rise in cluster infections at workplaces, hospitals and risk-prone facilities has posed challenges to the country's antivirus efforts amid concerns about the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants.

The country has decided to extend the current social distancing rules for another two weeks through March 14 with the start of a new school semester beginning this week.

The greater Seoul area, home to about half of the nation's 52 million population, is under Level 2, the third highest in its five-tier system, and other regions are placed under Level 1.5. Private gatherings of five or more people are banned.

South Korea began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Friday by administering the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca to health workers and patients aged under 65 at nursing homes and hospitals.

It also started Saturday to give the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine to front-line medical workers.

The country administered 756 vaccine shots Sunday, raising the total to 21,177, according to the KDCA. It aims to achieve herd immunity by November.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 92 additional cases were reported in Seoul and 156 in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, identified 14 new cases.

The country, meanwhile, added 17 imported cases, increasing the total to 7,063. Three cases came from Pakistan, followed by two each from Indonesia, Japan, the United States and Morocco.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 131, down from 135 in the previous day.

The positivity rate, the portion of newly infected people against the daily number of people receiving tests, came to 2.12 percent, up from 1.63 percent a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 81,070, up 373 from a day earlier.

This photo, taken Feb. 28, 2021, shows South Korea's central COVID-19 vaccination facility at the National Medical Center in central Seoul. (Yonhap)


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