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New COVID-19 cases stay over 2,000 for 5th straight day amid relaxed virus curbs

A health care worker is pictured at a testing center in Songpa-gu, eastern Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap)
A health care worker is pictured at a testing center in Songpa-gu, eastern Seoul on Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's COVID-19 cases stayed above 2,000 for the fifth consecutive day Sunday amid worries over a resurgence of infections, as the country relaxed its social distancing restrictions earlier this month in line with the campaign of "living with COVID-19."

Throughout the previous day, 2,419 new coronavirus cases were confirmed nationwide, raising the total caseload to 395,460, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The daily caseload has stayed in the quadruple digits since July 7, including the record high of 3,272 cases on Sept. 25.

Of the total, 2,401 were local infections. Eighteen cases came from overseas, bringing the total of such cases to 15,370, the KDCA said.

The country added 20 more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 3,103. The fatality rate stood at 0.78 percent.

The number of patients in critical condition reached 483 after jumping to an all-time high of 485 the previous day.

Health authorities warned of a further uptick in the daily caseload and serious cases under the eased social distancing scheme meant to bring the country gradually back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

On Nov. 1, the government began its living with COVID-19 policy as part of a broader plan to lift the virus restrictions by the end of February.

Under the first of the three-phase scheme, people are allowed to gather in groups of up to 10, regardless of vaccinations. Operation hour curfews for businesses that cover restaurants, cafes and movie theaters are fully lifted, except for adult entertainment facilities, such as clubs and bars.

But health authorities have warned that the country may not be able to advance its phased "living with COVID-19" scheme if the current trend continues.

South Korea had planned to move to the second phase in mid-December after a two-week evaluation period.

About 41.96 million people, or 81.7 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received their first COVID-19 vaccine shots as of Sunday. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 40.1 million, or 78.1 percent.

The KDCA predicts that full vaccination rates will reach 80 percent around mid-December.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 969 were reported in Seoul, 797 in the surrounding province of Gyeonggi and 155 in Incheon, a port city just west of Seoul. (Yonhap)