(ATTN: ADDS latest figure in paras 6-8)
SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell to the lowest level in more than five months on Monday, partly due to fewer tests over the weekend, providing a clear indication of the slowing spread of omicron.
The country added 3,538 new COVID-19 infections, including 96 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,280,090, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Monday's figure marks the lowest since the 3,094 reported on Jan. 11. Daily infection numbers tend to drop on Mondays due to fewer tests.
The KDCA reported 10 more deaths from COVID-19, putting the death toll at 24,451. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients came to 72, up from 70 the previous day.
As of 9 p.m., the country had reported 8,786 new infections, up 2.6 times the tally from the same time a day earlier, according to local governments and health authorities.
The daily counts tend to fall on Mondays due to fewer tests on the weekend.
Daily infections are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.
The slowing omicron trend has brought down the daily infection numbers, mostly to the four-digit range, since earlier this month, after the country came out of the worst wave that sent the daily cases to the peak of over 620,000 in mid-March.
But the government last Friday decided to retain the seven-day self-isolation mandate for COVID-19 patients for four more weeks until July 17, citing the risks of yet another virus resurgence.
Lifting the self-isolation mandate would mean a significant step in efforts toward the return of pre-pandemic normalcy as South Korea removed most social distancing restrictions, except the mask mandate, in mid-April.
Officials said weekly deaths should stay under 100 and the fatality rate needs to fall below 0.1 percent for the isolation rule to be lifted.
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