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(2nd LD) New cases under 1,500, social distancing expected to be extended ahead of Chuseok

All News 11:37 August 30, 2021

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, photos; ADDS details in paras 11, 15)

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases fell below 1,500 on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend, with health authorities mulling extending the current level of social distancing ahead of next month's Chuseok holiday.

The country added 1,487 more COVID-19 cases, including 1,426 local infections, raising the total caseload to 250,051, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Monday's tally marked a drop from 1,793 on Saturday and 1,619 on Sunday. The number of patients normally falls over the weekend and rises later in the week as more people get tested.

The country added five more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,284, the KDCA said. The fatality rate was 0.91 percent.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 404, staying above 400 for a seventh consecutive day. Critical patients more than tripled from some 120 in early July, when the fourth wave began.

A citizen receives a COVID-19 test at a makeshift clinic in central Seoul on Aug. 30, 2021. (Yonhap)

As daily cases have stayed above 1,000 for 55 consecutive days, health authorities said they are planning to announce special measures that will be applied over Chuseok, which runs from Sept. 18-22 this year, on Friday.

The guidelines are expected to include details on the number of participants allowed in family gatherings and nursing homes. Millions normally travel across the country over the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.

On the previous day, however, health officials also warned South Korea should stay vigilant, claiming loosening social distancing measures in a hasty manner will lead to further spread of the virus.

Starting last week, restaurants and bars in the greater Seoul area are allowed to have only take-away customers after 9 p.m., which is an hour earlier than the previous guideline. The current social distancing measures are set to run through Sunday.

The greater Seoul area, home to half of the nation's 52 million population, has been under Level 4 restrictions, the highest of the four-tier virus curbs, while most other areas have implemented Level 3 distancing.

"Considering that the number of infections are being limited, we can say that the current social distancing measures are effective," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, said in a briefing.

Health authorities said the rising number of people being vaccinated here nevertheless may give the country some leeway to loosen some of the restrictions next month.

A soldier receives a COVID-19 test at a makeshift clinic in central Seoul on Aug. 30, 2021. (Yonhap)

As of Sunday, a total of 28 million people, or 55.8 percent of the population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and only 14.6 million people, or 28.5 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

The country plans to provide at least one jab to 70 percent of the population by the end of September to create herd immunity in November.

South Korea said it is currently in talks with U.S. vaccine maker Moderna Inc. to acquire 6 million doses of its vaccine within this week, although they have not yet clinched a formal agreement.

So far, 171,978 cases of post-vaccination side effects have been reported, though 95.6 percent of them were found to be mild symptoms, such as muscle pain and fever. There have been 522 deaths following vaccination.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 436 were from Seoul, 402 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 63 from the western port city of Incheon, the authorities said.

The southeastern port city of Busan added 55 cases, and its surrounding South Gyeongsang Province reported 61 additional infections. South Chungcheong Province found 57 new cases.

Imported cases, which include South Korean nationals, came to 61.

Of the imported cases, Indonesia accounted for 22 cases, followed by Russia with five and Afghanistan with four.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 220,358, up 1,632 from the previous day. Around 88 percent of the patients reported here have been fully cured.

South Korea has carried out 13,049,684 COVID-19 tests so far, including 33,757 from the previous day.

colin@yna.co.kr
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