(ATTN: ADDS daily infections as of 9 p.m. in para 6)
SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell Thursday after staying above 40,000 for two days amid the government's efforts to move the country back to pre-pandemic normalcy.
The country added 35,906 new COVID-19 infections, including 12 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,694,677, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The tally decreased from 43,925 on Wednesday and was down from 42,289 a week ago.
The public health agency reported 63 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 23,554, the KDCA said.
The number of critically ill patients came to 354, down 29 from a day earlier.
As of 9 p.m. South Korea had reported 31,479 new daily infections, down 5,726 from the same time a day earlier, according to health authorities and local governments. Daily cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
South Korea's new daily infections have been on a downward trend in recent weeks after peaking at over 620,000 on March 17 amid the spread of the omicron variant.
The government eased the outdoor mask mandate on May 2, except for large gatherings of 50 or more, as it is moving toward a return to normalcy. The indoor mask mandate remains in effect.
Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul on Thursday reported 5,695 new cases and Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital identified 8,392 cases.
As of midnight Wednesday, 44.56 million people, or 86.8 percent of the 52 million population, had been fully vaccinated, according to the KDCA data.
A total of 33.2 million people had received their first booster shots, representing 64.7 percent, and 3.19 million people, or 6.2 percent, had their second booster shots.
The South Korean government is pushing second booster shots for those aged 60 and older to try to reduce deaths and prevent them from becoming critically ill patients.
As of midnight Wednesday, 26 percent of those aged 60 and older had received their second booster shots.
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