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(3rd LD) New virus cases in 2,000s for 8th day; holiday-tied virus surge concerning

All News 15:27 October 03, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks by interior minister in paras 10-12; CHANGES photo)
By Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases stayed in the 2,000s for the eighth straight day Sunday, with health authorities remaining on alert over the spread of the virus after an extended weekend.

The country added 2,086 more COVID-19 cases, including 2,058 local infections, raising the total caseload to 318,105, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Sunday's tally was down from 2,248 on Saturday and 2,486 on Friday.

The decline was largely attributable to less testing over the weekend. The daily infection count has stayed in the 2,000s since Sept. 26.

The country added three more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,507.

South Korea is grappling with the fourth wave of the pandemic, with the number of daily virus cases exceeding 1,000 for nearly three months.

It reported a further spike in virus infections following the fall harvest Chuseok holiday last month, with daily cases hitting a record high of 3,271 on Sept. 25.

A health worker conducts a COVID-19 test on a citizen at a testing center set up in front of Seoul Station in central Seoul. (Yonhap)

Health authorities remained on alert over another surge in new cases as two back-to-back extended weekends are likely to prompt more people to travel.

This year's Oct. 3 National Foundation Day and the Oct. 9 Hangeul Day will be observed as three-day extended weekends as the government designated the following respective Mondays as substitute holidays.

Health authorities said the reproduction rate, which refers to the number of people a single patient can infect, came to 1.2 last week, the highest since the third week of July. A reading above 1 means the virus is spreading at a faster pace.

"There is a possibility that infections traced to the Chuseok holiday could further spread, and worries also mounted that the virus may further spread following the two extended weekends," Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol told a pan-government meeting on virus responses.

He said it is not easy to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the short term as sporadic cluster infections continued to crop up.

South Korea decided Friday to extend the toughest-ever social distancing rules for two more weeks, which will be effective starting Monday.

Since July 12, the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population of 52 million, has been under the Level 4 measures, which include business restrictions and a ban on private gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m.

Amid the prolonged pandemic, the government is considering gradually moving into a phase of "living with COVID-19" starting in November, under which COVID-19 is treated as an infectious respiratory disease, like seasonal influenza, with eased distancing being implemented.

Since the country began its inoculation campaign on Feb. 26, 39.6 million people, or 77.3 percent of the population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, the KDCA said.

The number of fully vaccinated people stood at 26.6 million, or 52.5 percent.

Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 732 new cases, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city identified 671 new patients. The southeastern city of Daegu reported 55 more cases.

The number of virus cases reported in the greater Seoul area came to 1,529, accounting for 74.3 percent of the total.

Cluster infections continued to pop up across the nation.

Cases traced to a high school in central Seoul came to 20, up 19 from the previous day. Infections tied to a construction site in Gimpo, west of Seoul, rose 14 to 15.

The number of new imported cases came to 28, raising the total to 14,525.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 346, up from 336 the previous day, the KDCA said.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 278,847, up 1,755 from a day earlier.

This photo, taken on Oct. 3, 2021, shows a sign calling for keeping a safe distance amid the pandemic, which was put up at a wedding hall in Seoul.


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