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(LEAD) New virus cases in 300s for 2nd day; vaccinations in higher gear

National 11:24 June 15, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 8-9)

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new COVID-19 cases remained under 400 for the second day Tuesday on fewer tests over the weekend as the country's vaccination drive picks up steam with inoculations likely to top 13 million soon.

The country reported 374 more virus cases, including 347 local infections, raising the total caseload to 148,647, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The latest tally is down from 399 cases on Monday and 452 on Sunday, and marks the lowest since March 23, when the country reported 346 cases.

The country added four more deaths, raising the death toll to 1,992.

A medical worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a health care center in the southwestern city of Gwangju, 329 kilometers south of Seoul, in this photo provided by the Buk Ward of the city on June 14, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Health authorities are set to implement a revamped social distancing scheme next month after extending the current distancing rules until July 4.

Currently, the greater Seoul area, Daegu and Jeju Island are under the Level 2 distancing, the third highest in the country's five-tier system, while other regions are under Level 1.5 with nationwide restrictions on private gatherings of five or more people.

Under the revamped four-tier scheme, authorities plan to ease business curfews, with restaurants and entertainment facilities in the capital area permitted to operate until midnight, an extension from the current restrictions until 10 p.m.

Health authorities said they will announce the revamped distancing rules set to be implemented next month this coming Sunday.

The country has already eased some restrictions ahead of the new virus restrictions, allowing outdoor sports venues under Level 2 to fill 30 percent of their seating capacity since Monday, compared with the previous 10 percent.

The country's vaccination campaign has also accelerated, with health authorities aiming to inoculate up to 14 million people with at least one vaccine dose by the end of this month and 36 million, or around 70 percent of its 52 million population, by September to achieve herd immunity in November.

A teacher gives hand sanitizer to a student at a middle school in Suwon, 46 km south of Seoul, on June 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

A total of 12.56 million people, including 731,735 the previous day, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 24.5 percent of the population, since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26.

The KDCA said 3.26 million people, or 6.4 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

South Korea currently administers two-part vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer as well as Janssen's single-dose vaccine.

The country will start inoculating medical workers aged below 30 this week with 55,000 doses of Moderna's two-part vaccine that arrived in the country earlier this month.

Health authorities said the country will likely reach 13 million inoculations as early as Tuesday given the current pace of vaccinations.

Of the 347 newly confirmed locally transmitted cases, 128 came from Seoul, 118 from Gyeonggi Province and 11 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital.

There were 27 additional imported cases, raising the total to 9,391.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 139,733, up 711 from a day earlier.


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