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New COVID-19 infections fall to around 5,000 amid slowing trend

This photo taken last Friday, shows Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, amid eased travel restrictions. (Yonhap)
This photo taken last Friday, shows Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, amid eased travel restrictions. (Yonhap)

South Korea's new coronavirus cases fell sharply to around 5,000 on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend, with health authorities working to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

The country added 5,022 COVID-19 infections, including 17 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,168,708, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The daily caseload fell from 9,835 a day earlier, marking the lowest number in 139 days since 4,068 cases were reported Jan. 18. Fewer tests were conducted during the extended weekend, with Memorial Day falling on Monday.

Daily infections have shown a downward trend after posting an all-time high of over 620,000 in mid-March.

The death toll rose to 21 on Monday from 20 the previous day, with the fatality rate at 0.13 percent. The number of critically ill patients fell to 129 from 136, the KDCA said.

In recent weeks, health authorities have taken a series of measures to return to normalcy as the pandemic wanes.

On Wednesday, the government began to shut down most makeshift COVID-19 testing stations across the country. It plans to increase the number of private clinics and local hospitals designated for virus treatment.

In its latest measures announced Friday, the government said it will lift a seven-day quarantine mandate for unvaccinated arrivals from overseas on June 8.

The move is part of the government's efforts to restore pre-pandemic normalcy and in line with border reopenings in other countries.

Despite the lifting, international arrivals are still required to take one polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within three days of their entry into South Korea.

Moreover, the government said it will also fully normalize the number of international flights and lift the curfew for arrivals at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Wednesday.

Rapid antigen tests that had been required for inbound travelers by the end of the first week of arrival are now a recommendation.

Of the 5,005 locally transmitted cases, Seoul accounted for 738 cases, with its surrounding Gyeonggi Province reporting 1,340 cases. There were also 197 additional infections in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital city.

As of Sunday, 44.59 million, or 86.9 percent of the population, had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.3 million, representing 64.9 percent, had received their first booster shots, the KDCA said.

More than 4.1 million people, or 8.1 percent, had gotten their second booster shots, the health agency said. (Yonhap)

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