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(LEAD) New COVID-19 cases dip to 1,800s amid worry over spike in holiday-tied cases

Health 11:06 August 15, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 14, 15, 18)

SEOUL, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus fell back to the 1,800s Sunday due to fewer tests over the weekend, but concerns remain over further spread of the virus following an extended weekend.

The country added 1,817 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,749 local infections, raising the total caseload to 223,928, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Sunday's tally was down from 1,930 on Saturday and 1,990 on Friday.

But the decline was attributable to less testing over the weekend, and still marked the highest for any Sunday since the first case was confirmed in January last year.

The country added eight more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,156.

This photo, taken on Aug. 14, 2021, shows travelers at an international airport in the southern resort island of Jeju as the three-day Liberation Day-related holiday period started amid the pandemic. (Yonhap)

Despite the toughest-ever distancing rules, the number of daily virus cases topped 1,000 for 40 days. The country reported a record high of 2,223 cases on Wednesday.

South Korea has been grappling with the fourth wave of the pandemic amid the fast spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and slow vaccinations.

Health authorities called on citizens to stay home during the three-day Liberation Day-related holiday period that will run until Monday.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum urged citizens Friday to minimize travel and stay home with their families. He warned of stern action against any Liberation Day mass rallies on Sunday in violation of distancing rules.

Health authorities are reviewing more enhanced anti-virus measures as the pandemic is raging across the nation relentlessly despite tougher virus restrictions.

For more than a month, the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's 52 million people, have been under the toughest virus curbs, along with several non-capital regions.

A delay in vaccine supply by U.S. drug maker Moderna Inc. is also complicating the country's efforts to accelerate the vaccine rollout.

Moderna has notified the government that it will be able to supply less than half of the 8.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine planned for August.

The vaccine setbacks have raised doubts over the government's plan to administer the first shot to 70 percent of the population by September and achieve herd immunity by November.

Shrugging off such concerns, President Moon Jae-in said in a Liberation Day speech that the country plans to complete administration of the second shots for 70 percent of the populaton by October.

Citizens wait in line to receive COVID-19 tests on Aug. 14, 2021, at a temporary testing center set up in front of Seoul Station in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

As of Sunday, 22.37 million people, or 43.6 percent of the population, had received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, the KDCA said.

The number of fully vaccinated people stood at 9.74 million, or 19 percent.

The country plans to start to vaccinate people aged between 18 and 49 on Aug. 26. Currently, the inoculation is under way for people in their 50s and some priority groups.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 478 new cases, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city identified 505 new patients. The southern port city of Busan reported 153 more cases.

The number of new imported cases came to 68, raising the total to 12,806.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 374, down from 386 the previous day, the KDCA said.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 195,103, up 1,325 from a day earlier.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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