(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 6 paras; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new coronavirus cases stayed below 30,000 for the second straight day Sunday in the latest sign that the country's virus cases are on a downward trend amid eased virus curbs.
The country added 25,434 new virus infections, including 26 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,782,061, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The country added 48 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 23,709, with the fatality rate at 0.13 percent. The number of critically ill patients fell to 338 from 341 a day earlier, the KDCA said.
Last month, health authorities eased social distancing guidelines as new infections showed signs of a slowdown after peaking at 621,168 on March 17.
The country also 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.
On Friday, South Korea announced a plan to ease requirements to enter the country in a move that could boost convenience for inbound travelers.
Starting May 23, the government will recognize negative rapid antigen test results for travelers boarding flights to South Korea, on top of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results currently being accepted.
Still, rapid antigen tests must be carried out by medical professionals 24 hours before arrival in South Korea.
Beginning June 1, international arrivals will be required to undergo a PCR test within three days of their entry into South Korea. Currently, the mandatory test is required on the day of arrival.
Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul accounted for 4,025, with its surrounding Gyeonggi Province taking up 5,799 cases. There were also 1,150 additional patients from Incheon, west of the capital city.
As of midnight Saturday, a total of 33.2 million people had received their first booster shots, representing 64.7 percent of the population, and 3.47 million people, or 6.8 percent, had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA added.
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