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Virus infections in S. Korea under control amid eased social distancing


South Korea reported four more cases of the new coronavirus on Thursday, including the first local case in four days, amid relaxed social distancing.

The new infections detected on Wednesday brought the nation's total cases of COVID-19 to 10,810, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The new local COVID-19 case came from Gyeonggi Province, surrounding Seoul, with the other three new cases having been imported, the KCDC said.

The KCDC said a total of 57 people had contacts with the confirmed patient from Gyeonggi Province, leading to one more confirmed patient later on Thursday.

The number of daily new confirmed cases has stayed below 20 for 20 consecutive days, and under 5 since Tuesday, the KCDC said.

The country decided to lift its strict social distancing scheme, which had been in force since early March, starting Wednesday, amid a slowdown in the number of new infections that peaked at 909 in late February.

South Koreans are allowed to go back to their daily routines while adhering to basic precautionary guidelines. Schools will open in phases starting next week as well.

"We ask all people to actively participate in the so-called everyday life quarantine that is aimed at coexisting both quarantine and everyday life," KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong said.

The nation's death toll increased by one to 256, the KCDC said.

The overall fatality rate reached 2.37 percent. The rate for patients aged 80 and above stood at 25 percent, the KCDC said.

In total, 9,419 people in South Korea have recovered from the virus, up 86 from a day earlier.

South Korea has carried out 649,388 tests since Jan. 3. The country reported its first COVID-19 case, a Chinese person, on Jan. 20.

In sync with the eased quarantine guidelines, health authorities said earlier they are considering lowering the nation's warning level by a notch from the highest level of four.

Experts warn of a possible second wave of the COVID-19 cases later, given the lack of a vaccine for the highly contagious virus.

Health authorities said the government has secured the budget needed to manufacture 100 million face masks in preparation for a second wave of infections.

At the same time, they will continue to beef up quarantine operations on arrivals to the country after six people who arrived from Kuwait tested positive for COVID-19.

The KCDC said the six people had been working on the same construction site in Kuwait. (Yonhap)