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S. Korea's new COVID-19 cases fall to 13-week low; govt. to discuss lifting indoor mask mandate

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 17, 2023 - 10:45

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A notice urges customers to wear masks inside a cafe in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) A notice urges customers to wear masks inside a cafe in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell to the lowest Tuesday tally in 13 weeks in a sign of a downward trend in new infections, as the country prepares to lift the indoor mask mandate.

The country reported 40,199 new COVID-19 infections, including 95 from overseas, bringing the total to 29,861,234, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Tuesday's tally is down by around 20,000 from the previous week and half the daily caseload from two weeks ago, the KDCA data showed. It also marked the lowest for any Tuesday since Oct. 18, when the country reported 33,218 cases.

South Korea added 30 COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 33,014.

The number of critically ill patients stood at 503, down by seven from the previous day.

Starting Tuesday, health authorities will discuss easing the indoor mask mandate.

The government has previously said it could scrap the mandate in phases, adding that a set of criteria need to be met to implement the mask-free policy.

A stable number of new infections, a downtrend in critically ill cases and deaths, strong medical response capabilities and a high vaccination rate among the high-risk groups are the criteria, the government said, with at least two of the four needing to be met in order to carry out the easing of the mandate.

The indoor mask mandate is the last remaining pandemic restriction in South Korea, after the government lifted tough social distancing, which included business hour curfews and private gathering limits. (Yonhap)