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(3rd LD) New cases fall below 700; cluster infections, travelers strain virus fight

National 18:53 May 15, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. in 5th para)

SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases fell below 700 on Saturday as the authorities expressed concerns about yet another uptick in additional cases amid a growing number of travelers that can lead to more sporadic cluster infections.

The country reported 681 more COVID-19 cases, including 661 local infections, raising the total caseload to 131,061, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea posted more than 700 daily infections on Thursday and Friday as sporadic cluster infections lingered nationwide.

There were three additional virus deaths, raising the total to 1,896. The fatality rate came to 1.45 percent.

A citizen receives a COVID-19 test at a makeshift clinic in central Seoul on May 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

As of 6 p.m., health authorities and local governments reported 501 confirmed cases, down 27 from the previous day. Of the total, 349 new cases, or 70 percent, were reported in the greater Seoul area, with 152 reported in other areas.

South Korea started its vaccination program on Feb. 26, but its inoculation drive has been making little progress amid the tight supply of vaccines.

The country earlier announced its bold plan to vaccinate 13 million people by June and achieve herd immunity by November. South Korea is currently making efforts to keep the daily figure below 1,000 through end-June while speeding up inoculations of seniors.

As of Saturday, 905,420 people, or 1.8 percent of the country's population, have been fully vaccinated, receiving both doses of two-part vaccines.

A total of 3,731,221 people, or 7.3 percent, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, up 9,548 from a day earlier.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 2.04 million people, while 1.68 million have received that of Pfizer.

A total of 21,944 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, up 409 from a day earlier, but 95.9 percent were mild symptoms, including muscle pain and fever.

The number of deaths reported among those vaccinated came to 119, up three from a day earlier. Their correlations, however, have not yet been determined.

Medical workers take a break next to an air conditioner at a clinic in eastern Seoul on May 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

Authorities are also raising concerns over the spread of the virus among people enjoying vacations amid warm weather.

Currently, the greater Seoul area, home to more than half of the country's 52 million people, is under Level 2 social distancing, the third highest in the five-tier scheme.

Gatherings of five or more people are banned nationwide in principle.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 253 cases came from Seoul, and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province accounted for 168.

Incheon, located west of Seoul, added 16 more cases. South Jeolla Province reported 26 more cases, while South Gyeongsang Province added 38 more.

Sporadic cluster infections lingered nationwide. An office in central Seoul reported 12 more patients, raising the total caseload to 13.

A church in eastern Seoul has reported 11 patients so far, with infections traced to a private gathering in the northeastern part of the capital city reaching 11.

A nursing home in Incheon has found nine infections so far.

In South Gyeongsang Province, a total of 18 COVID-19 patients were traced to a gathering of foreigners.

Over the past two weeks, cluster infections accounted for 23.7 percent of the newly added cases, while 27.4 percent of the cases had unknown infection routes.

Imported cases came to 20. Among them, nine were South Koreans and 11 were foreigners, the KDCA said.

Among imported cases, India accounted for four cases, followed by Turkey, the Philippines and the United States with three each.

The number of patients in serious or critical condition came to 150, down three from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 121,282, up 887 from a day earlier. This indicates that 92.5 percent of the COVID-19 patients reported here have been cured.

South Korea has carried out 9,319,094 COVID-19 tests so far, including 37,803 from the previous day.

colin@yna.co.kr
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