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New infections in 300s for 2nd day, variants remain worry

All News 10:01 June 22, 2021

SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases stayed in the 300s for the second consecutive day Tuesday on fewer tests over the weekend amid a vaccination drive, but the potential spread of COVID-19 variants remains worrisome ahead of eased distancing rules starting July.

The country reported 395 new cases, including 351 local infections, raising the total caseload to 151,901, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The country added two COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2,006. The fatality rate came to 1.32 percent.

The number of daily imported cases topped 40 for the third straight day amid woes over potential transmission of the coronavirus variants, especially the one believed to have originated from India.

The country has yet to report a large number of the so-called Delta variant cases, but other countries, such as Britain and the United States whose vaccination rates topped 50 percent, have been struggling with rising cases of the variant, which is known to be more transmissible than others.

KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said Monday that the agency is closely monitoring the situation when it comes to the Delta variant and there is a need to strengthen quarantine measures against it.

According to authorities, most Delta virus cases are imported, a large portion of which were found in South Koreans who arrived last month from India.

Employees work at a Mode Tour office in central Seoul on June 21, 2021, as an accelerating vaccination drive raises hopes of overseas travel to countries such as Guam, Saipan and Taiwan later this year. (Yonhap)

The woes over variant cases came as the country is set to ease its social distancing scheme next month, which allows businesses to stay open longer and permits gatherings of more people.

The move came as the country's vaccination campaign is gaining traction.

Currently, the greater Seoul area is under Level 2 distancing in the five-level scheme, while the rest of the country is under Level 1.5. Private gatherings of five or more are banned nationwide.

Under the new four-tier system, restaurants and cafes in the capital area will be permitted to operate until midnight under Level 2, an extension from the current restrictions of 10 p.m.

The nationwide ban on gatherings of five or more people will be lifted under the renewed guidelines, with the ceiling set to be raised to eight under Level 2. No restrictions are applied under Level 1.

In the greater Seoul area, the ceiling will initially be set at six people over a two-week transition period.

Of the newly confirmed locally transmitted cases, 126 came from Seoul and 92 from Gyeonggi Province.

Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, added 30 cases. Incheon, just west of Seoul, added 15 patients, and the southeastern port city of Busan had six more cases.

Health authorities counted 44 more imported cases, raising the tally to 9,611. Of the imported cases, Asian countries, excluding China, accounted for 39, followed by Africa with two cases, Europe with two, the United States with one, and Mexico with one.

This photo taken on June 21, 2021, shows a Seoul pharmacy that ran out of Tylenol as people rush to buy the painkiller for potential side effects of coronavirus vaccine shots amid the nationwide vaccination campaign. (Yonhap)

Amid the nationwide vaccination drive, a total of 15.03 million people, or 29.3 percent of the country's 51.3 million population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines. Four million, or 8.1 percent of the population, were fully inoculated as of Tuesday.

The country aims to inoculate 36 million with at least one jab by September to achieve herd immunity in November.

The number of patients in serious or critical condition came to 135, down two from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 143,817, up 549 from a day earlier.

South Korea has carried out 10.38 million COVID-19 tests so far, including 33,996 the previous day.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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