(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 5-9; ADDS photos)
SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases stayed below 300,000 for the third consecutive day Sunday as the spread of the omicron variant slowed down after peaking out last month.
The country reported 234,301 new COVID-19 infections, including 22 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 13,874,216, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
South Korea has seen a downward trend in daily cases in recent weeks, with a record high of over 620,000 on March 17 falling to a one-month low of 187,182 on Monday.
A total of 306 died of COVID-19, raising the total deaths to 17,235, with the fatality rate at 0.12 percent. The number of critically ill patients fell to 1,128 Sunday from 1,165 a day earlier, the KDCA said.
The number of fully vaccinated people stood at 44.5 million, or 86.7 percent of the 52 million population, while 63.9 percent had received booster shots, the health agency said.
Starting this week, the government eased the private gathering limit to 10 people from eight and extended the business hour curfew on restaurants and cafes by one hour to midnight.
Moreover, health authorities are reportedly considering lifting the social distancing rules and outdoor mask mandates when the revised rules expire two weeks later, given the nation's high vaccination rate and infection rate.
The government said it will secure enough oral treatment pills for those aged over 60 and other adults with underlying diseases to reduce deaths and serious cases among high-risk groups.
An additional batch of Pfizer's Paxlovid pills enough for 222,000 patients will arrive between Monday and Tuesday, on top of an earlier delivery of pills for 252,000, the agency said.
Netherlands expects stronger chip partnership with S. Korea: foreign minister
Yoon's overseas trip marked by rare summit with Japan, embarrassing hot mic
Assessment divided over Lone Star-S. Korea ruling
(News Focus) Unattended deaths of poverty-stricken family raises alarm over leaky social welfare system
Ruling party row deepens as winning allies Yoon, ex-PPP chair Lee turn into foes