A street in Hongdae, one of the busiest entertainment districts in Seoul, is crowded with people on April 15, 2022. The government announced on the day it will lift all COVID-19 social distancing rules, except the mask mandate, starting next week.(Yonhap)
South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell below 110,000 on Saturday, with the country set to gradually return to normalcy starting next week by lifting major social distancing rules.
The country added 107,916 more COVID-19 infections, including
30 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 16,212,751, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The latest tally is a drop from the previous day's 125,846, marking a steady decline in the virus curve from the March 17 peak of more than 620,000 when the omicron wave had gripped the country.
The death toll from COVID-19 came to 20,889, up 273 from the previous day. The fatality rate came to 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients fell by 86 to 913.
Starting Monday, South Korea plans to lift all COVID-19 social distancing rules, except the mask mandate, in the first big step toward post-pandemic days since the outbreak of the virus two years ago.
Under the plan, the midnight business hour curfew for restaurants, cafes and other small businesses will be completely lifted. The same will apply to the 10-person cap on the size of private gatherings.
South Korea first introduced social distancing measures in March 2020. At one point, the restrictions were tightened to only allow two people to meet at night and only allow takeout at cafes.
The virus will also be downgraded to Class 2 from Class 1 on March 25, which means that the authorities no longer have to oblige patients to quarantine. The new rule will be implemented after a four-week transition period.
Health officials, nevertheless, predict that the new daily case numbers could hover between the range of 50,000-100,000 for quite some time.
Of the local cases reported Saturday, 18,118 patients were from Seoul, and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province added 27,480 cases.
Incheon, located west of the capital city, found 5,606 additional infections.
So far, 44.5 million, or 86.8 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated with at least two shots. The number of those who have received four shots came to 423,814, or 0.8 percent. (Yonhap)