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(LEAD) New virus cases around 700 for 2nd day; further spike in offing

All News 09:45 April 15, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 9, 12-16; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases stayed around 700 on Thursday, as sporadic infections across the country complicate antivirus efforts, prompting authorities to mull tougher virus curbs to contain the pandemic.

The country reported 698 more COVID-19 cases, including 670 local infections, raising the total caseload to 112,117, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Thursday's daily caseload was down from 731 the previous day, which marked the highest since Jan. 7.

The country added six more deaths, raising the total to 1,788.

Health authorities have expressed concerns over a fourth wave of the pandemic in spring as people let their guard down and increase activities, warning of tougher rules on multiuse facilities and business operations if the current trend continues.

Medical workers collect samples from a person for COVID-19 testing at a makeshift screening station in front of Seoul Station on April 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

The number of locally transmitted cases surpassed 600 over the past week for the first time in three months, and the proportion of untraceable virus cases stood at 28.2 percent during the period, the KDCA said.

Last week, the country decided to maintain the current level of social distancing rules through May 2 to contain the virus, while banning operations of entertainment establishments in the greater Seoul area and the southeastern port city of Busan.

The greater Seoul area, home to half of the nation's 52 million population, is under the Level 2 distancing scheme, the third highest in the five-phase system. The rest of the country is under Level 1.5, except for some municipalities that have adopted Level 2 measures.

Restaurants in the capital area are allowed to have dine-in customers until 10 p.m. under the current guidelines, but officials said they could shorten their business hours if daily cases rise further.

Minister of the Interior and Safety Jeon Hae-cheol said Thursday the number of health regulation violations in multiuse facilities has been rising, saying authorities will step up monitoring on virus-prone facilities, including restaurants, cafes, saunas and child care centers.

To detect patients at an early stage, health officials said they will expand preemptive testing to detect patients and explore ways to effectively use self-testing kits to further step up the testing capacity.

A pedestrian walks along a retail strip in downtown Seoul on April 14, 2021, as authorities consider upgrading the social distancing scheme in response to a growing number of new COVID-19 cases. (Yonhap)

Since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, a total of 1,285,909 people have been given COVID-19 vaccine shots, including 45,520 the previous day.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 951,712 people, while 334,197 received that of Pfizer.

The KDCA said 60,569 people have received two doses.

A total of 11,927 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, up 128 from a day earlier, but 98.4 percent were mild symptoms, including muscle pain and fever.

Two more deaths after vaccinations were reported, raising the total to 51, according to the KDCA. Authorities, however, said most cases were not related to the vaccination.

Elderly people wait for inoculation of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in southern Seoul on April 14, 2021, in this photo provided by Dongjak Ward Office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Of the newly confirmed locally transmitted cases, 216 came from Seoul, with Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city accounting for 222.

The southeastern port city of Busan reported 54 new cases.

There were 28 additional imported cases.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 99, one down from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 102,513, up 530 from a day earlier.


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