S. Korea’s new COVID-19 cases below 300,000 for 2nd day

South Korea's new daily COVID-19 cases remained below 300,000 for the second consecutive day Saturday as the omicron variant was spreading at a slower pace after peaking out last month.

The country reported 264,171 new COVID-19 infections, including 68 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 13,639,915, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea has seen a downward trend in new cases in recent weeks, with an all-time high of over 620,000 on March 17 dipping to a nearly one-month low of 187,182 on Monday.

A total of 339 died of COVID-19, raising the total deaths to 16,929. The fatality rate stood at 0.12 percent.

The number of critically ill patients fell to 1,165 Saturday from the record high of 1,315 the previous day.

As of 9 p.m. Saturday, 231,926 new cases had been confirmed nationwide, down 27,306 from the same time the previous day, according to health authorities and local governments.

Daily COVID-19 cases are counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

Beginning next week, the government is set to ease the private gathering limit to 10 people from eight and extend the business hour curfew on restaurants and cafes by one hour to midnight.

Health authorities are reportedly considering lifting the social distancing rules and outdoor mask mandates when the revised rules expire two weeks later, given the nation's high vaccination rate and infection rate.

The number of fully vaccinated people came to 44.5 million, or 86.7 percent of the 52 million population, while 63.9 percent had received booster shots, the KDCA said.

The COVID-19 response team said it will secure enough oral treatment pills for those aged over 60 and other adults with underlying diseases to reduce deaths and serious cases among high-risk groups.

An additional batch of Pfizer's Paxlovid pills enough for 222,000 patients will arrive between Monday and Tuesday, on top of an earlier delivery of pills for 252,000, it added.

Source: Yonhap News Agency