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(LEAD) S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases at around 23,000 as talk over mask mandate removal resumes

National 14:28 December 05, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS advisory panel's comment on mask mandate in paras 8-9)

SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 cases rose at a moderate pace Monday from a week earlier, as the virus spread held steady, with attention being drawn to the possible removal of the indoor mask mandate.

The country reported 23,160 new COVID-19 infections, including 80 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 27,331.250, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Monday's count is up from the previous week's 22,313 and little changed from 23,076 the week before, marking a steady virus curve. Monday figures tend to slow due to fewer tests on the weekend.

The country added 40 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the total to 30,769.

The number of critically ill patients stood at 458, down from Sunday's 460.

The central city of Daejeon sent an official document to the central health authorities last week notifying them of its plan to take autonomous steps to lift the mask requirement for indoor places if the rule is not removed on nationwide.

No other regional governments have so far implemented or adjusted any COVID-19 rules independently of the central government's policy.

Jung Ki-suck, chair of a private-government advisory panel on infectious diseases, called for prudence in lifting the indoor mask rule, citing risks of a spike in COVID-19 and flu cases that could lead to another massive virus wave.

"If we take off masks indoors, the infection number will inevitably increase, which could lead to an increased number of critically ill patients and deaths," Jung said at a press briefing earlier in the day, adding that nationwide consistency in the antivirus measures is vital to keep the virus spread under control.

The indoor mask mandate is the last remaining COVID-19 restriction South Korea has kept in place following the scrapping of all other distancing rules.

A book store in central Seoul is packed with people wearing masks on Dec. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

A book store in central Seoul is packed with people wearing masks on Dec. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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