(ATTN: ADDS daily infections as of 9 p.m. in para 6)
SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell to a 17-week low Monday, as the omicron-driven surge has slowed in recent weeks.
The country added 9,975 new infections, including 17 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,967,672, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Monday's tally dropped by more than 3,300 cases from a week earlier and was the lowest since the 8,570 cases reported on Jan. 25 in a steady downward trend in new infections.
South Korea's daily caseload peaked at over 620,000 on March 17, fueled by the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
The country added 22 deaths from COVID-19, taking the total to 23,987. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent. The number of critically ill patients fell to 225 from 229 a day earlier, the KDCA said.
As of 9 p.m., South Korea had reported 25,432 new coronavirus cases, up 15,776 from the same time a day earlier, according to local governments and health authorities. Daily infections are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
Beginning Monday, international travelers arriving in the country, including South Koreans returning from abroad, can show negative rapid antigen tests taken within 24 hours of arrival. Previously, only a PCR test result was accepted.
Also, the government extended the temporary measure of allowing in-person visits without any barriers at nursing homes and senior care hospitals for the time being. It was scheduled to end Monday.
Those who have not been vaccinated for medical reasons are now allowed to visit at the doctor's discretion.
Last month, the country rolled back most virus restrictions amid the slowdown in infections.
Still, the government was shy of lifting the seven-day self-isolation mandate for COVID-19 patients on concerns that the measure could lead to a resurgence of the virus in the coming months. The measure was extended until June 20.
Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul accounted for 1,213 cases, with its surrounding Gyeonggi Province reporting 2,665 cases. There were also 383 additional patients from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital city.
As of midnight Sunday, 44.57 million, or 86.9 percent of the population, had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.26 million, representing 64.8 percent, had received their first booster shots. More than 3.8 million people had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA said.
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