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Daily virus cases drop to one-month low amid concern over COVID-19 variant

9 January 2021 13:17
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Daily virus cases drop to one-month low amid concern over COVID-19 variant

SEOUL. KAZINFORM South Korea's new coronavirus cases dropped to the lowest level in a month on Saturday, but authorities are vigilant over chains of cluster infections coupled with looming concerns over a COVID-19 variant.

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The country added 641 more COVID-19 cases, including 596 local infections, raising the total caseload to 67,999, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), Yonhap reports.

It was the lowest daily figure since Dec. 8, when the country added 594 additional cases. The nation reported fewer than 1,000 daily cases for the fifth consecutive day.

It also dropped from the previous day's number of 674.

Authorities attributed the latest signs of a slowdown in the local spread of the virus to the country's tough social distancing policies.

South Korea has been operating the so-called Level 2.5 social distancing scheme in the greater Seoul area, which is the second highest in the country's five-tier scheme, since Dec. 8.

Private gatherings of five or more people are banned across the nation during the designated period.

High-risk entertainment venues, including bars, clubs and karaoke establishments, in the Seoul metropolitan area will be allowed to conditionally reopen when the current Level 2.5 measures expire on Jan. 17.

Despite the slowdown, however, local authorities are keeping a watchful eye on a new virus variant that was first reported in Britain.

As of Friday, South Korea has reported a total of 16 cases of the new COVID-19 strain.

South Korea has banned flights from Britain since Dec. 23, with the ban extended until Jan. 21.

«The spread of the virus has reached the peak and is slowly flattening,» Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said. «But considering the pace of the third wave of the pandemic, the number can rebound at any time.»

Of the newly identified local infections, 180 cases were reported in Seoul and 195 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital. Incheon, west of Seoul, reported 46 more cases. The three areas represent around half of the nation's population.

The Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, which recently emerged as a hotbed of local infections, has reported 1,177 cases so far.

The number of imported cases came to 45.

Of the imported cases, the United States took up 29, and Russia accounted for four.

South Korea added 19 more deaths, raising the total to 1,100.

The fatality rate reached 1.62 percent.

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients reached 409 on Saturday, up five from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 49,324, up 955 from the previous day. This indicates more than 72 percent of the patients reported here were cured.

South Korea has carried out 4,689,616 COVID-19 tests since last year, including 59,612 from the previous day.

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