South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell to the lowest Thursday tally in 31 weeks as the country has seen a gradual downward trend and has taken steps to fully regain pre-pandemic normalcy.
The country reported 16,862 new cases, including 45 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 30,213,928, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
It fell from the previous day's 20,420 new cases and was a marked decline from 35,086 cases a week earlier. Thursday's figure is the lowest daily count for any Thursday since July 7 last year when the figure came to 18,492.
The country added 36 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, bringing the death toll to 33,522, the KDCA said.
The number of critically ill patients came to 345, down from 359 the previous day. The tally has been on a decline, staying under 400 for three days in a row.
Despite some fluctuation, the infections have fallen in recent weeks, and the government lifted the indoor mask mandate Monday, excluding at hospitals, pharmacies and public transportation.
"The winter wave passed the peak. The BN.1 omicron subvariant became a dominant one in South Korea last week to replace BA.5, but it does not appear to have affected the overall situation," KDCA official Lim Sook-young said.
But the official said the government will closely monitor the possibility of a virus resurgence in line with the mask mandate adjustment and a virus inflow from China, among other factors.
South Korea maintains a seven-day mandatory quarantine for those infected with the virus and has implemented several other restrictive measures, including curbs on entrants from China. (Yonhap)