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S. Korea eases social distancing rules as daily cases hit fresh high of 266,853

A screen shows the number of COVID-19 daily cases in South Korea, Friday. (Yonhap)
A screen shows the number of COVID-19 daily cases in South Korea, Friday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean government announced Friday that it has decided to push back the curfew on cafes and restaurants by one hour to 11 p.m. while keeping the private gathering size limit at six.

Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol announced it during a COVID-19 response meeting on Friday. Jeon explained that the decision was made largely to help business owners and small merchants, who have been suffering from financial distress during the pandemic.

The government’s decision came amid the country’s daily COVID-19 cases hitting another high of over 260,000.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s report, the country’s daily COVID-19 infections reached 266,853 during the 24 hours of Thursday, raising the total caseload to 3,691,488.

It is the second time that the country’s daily cases have surpassed 200,000.

The government first reported 219,241 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The figure dropped slightly to 198,803 on the following day but spiked again to hit another all-time high.

Previously, the government anticipated that the daily figure would peak at some 250,000 daily cases by mid-March. But the figure reported on Friday has already exceeded the projected figure.

The number of COVID-19 related deaths also reached a record high of 186, climbing up from the previous day’s 128. The death toll reached 8,580, and the fatality rate was 0.22 percent.

The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients increased to 797 from 766 a day earlier.

The government currently anticipates the number of critically ill patients to increase to as many as 2,750 by the end of March, which could challenge the country’s medical system capacity.

The hospital bed occupancy rate for seriously ill COVID-19 patients as of midnight Thursday reached 50.5 percent, remaining at a manageable level at least for the moment.

The number of patients who are under at-home treatment also surged during the 24 hours of Thursday to reach 925,662, up 232,632 from the previous day.

By Shim Woo-hyun (
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Korea Herald daum