South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell to the lowest Friday tally in 31 weeks amid a gradual downtrend as the government has taken steps to support people's return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
The country reported 14,961 new cases, including 28 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 30,228,889, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
It is the lowest daily count for any Friday since July 1 last year when the figure came to 9,514. It was about half the level of 31,711 infections seen a week earlier.
The country added 30 COVID-19 deaths Friday, bringing the death toll to 33,552, the KDCA said.
The number of critically ill patients came to 339, down from 345 the previous day. The tally has been on the decline, staying under 400 for four days in a row.
The health authorities have said the winter wave passed the peak, and the downtrend is expected to continue despite some fluctuation.
The new infections have been on a constant fall since Wednesday, though the government on Monday lifted the indoor mask mandate, excluding at hospitals, pharmacies and public transportation.
Amid the downtrend, the internal affairs ministry has recently advised local governments to refrain from sending emergency phone messages to residents detailing the number of COVID-19 infections in their respective regions.
Officials say some have voiced complaints over "unnecessary" warnings given the current virus situation, and repeated alerts would prevent people from taking them seriously.
"But it is not a time to let down our guard. The government will thoroughly manage the quarantine and medical respond system by closely monitoring new virus variants, preventing virus inflow from overseas, and properly managing hospital beds," Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told a disaster management meeting.
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)