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S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases above 12,000 for 2nd day amid eased virus curbs

Tourists are seen walking through the duty-free zone at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Tourists are seen walking through the duty-free zone at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's new COVID-19 cases stayed above 12,000 for the second consecutive day Thursday amid eased antivirus restrictions as the country is seeking to restore pre-pandemic normalcy.

The country added 12,161 COVID-19 infections, including 65 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,200,346, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Thursday's figure marked a slight fall from the previous day's 13,358. The daily caseload had been below 10,000 for three days in a row until Tuesday on fewer tests over the weekend and the Memorial Day holiday that fell on Monday.

The country added 18 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 24,323. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.

The number of critically ill patients came to 106, down from 114 the previous day.

As of Thursday, 44.6 million, or 86.9 percent of the population, had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.33 million, representing 64.9 percent, had received their first booster shots.

More than 4.21 million people, or 8.2 percent of the population, had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA said.

The country has seen a gradual decline in total infections in recent weeks after experiencing the omicron-driven worst virus wave that pushed up the daily count to over 620,000 in mid-March.

The government has lifted most of the social distancing rules to support people's return to normalcy.

From Wednesday, the country lifted the mandatory seven-day self-isolation period for international arrivals as it normalized the operation of Incheon International Airport, the main gateway to South Korea, to meet growing air travel demand.

But the government, at the same time, has devised measures to better protect vulnerable groups amid chances of another wave in summer.

It plans to bring in AstraZeneca's antibody treatment Evusheld for emergency use starting next month. Those with compromised immune systems will be inoculated with it as a preventive measure.

In June, the government began the so-called fast track medical response system meant to swiftly provide treatment to virus-vulnerable groups, including those aged 60 and older, people at senior care hospitals and those with compromised immune systems. (Yonhap)

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