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New infections rise back to 700s amid variant concerns

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk along a crosswalk in Seoul, May 7. AP-Yonhap
People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk along a crosswalk in Seoul, May 7. AP-Yonhap

South Korea's daily new COVID-19 infections rose back to the 700s for the first time in 10 days Friday as the country remains on alert for a potential upsurge in cases caused by coronavirus variants.

In a statement, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said it has found 701 more cases, including 672 local ones, raising the total caseload to 126,745.

The daily caseload reached 488, Monday, on fewer tests over the weekend and stayed under 700 until Thursday. There were 760 daily infections on April 28.

Five more deaths were reported, raising the toll to 1,865 with a fatality rate of 1.47 percent, the KDCA said.

The cases rebounded as people have been increasingly enjoying the warmer weather outside and holding family gatherings.

Additionally, more cases caused by coronavirus variants were reported in the southeastern city of Ulsan.

In stepped-up efforts to contain cases there, the health authorities increased the number of temporary screening centers to 10 from three and advised citizens to get tested.

The city has reported more than 300 infections from COVID-19 variants since early March, most are believed to be from Britain.

The government is also focusing on preventing the Indian variant from entering the country as more South Koreans are expected to return from the country this month. Nearly 400 people have already returned from the virus-hit nation.

The KDCA is accelerating its vaccination campaign as the government aims to achieve herd immunity by November.

A total of 3,662,587 people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 7.1 percent of the country's population, since the administration began its vaccination program, Feb. 26.

Two million people have been given the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 1.66 million have received the one from Pfizer.

Some 19,394 cases of side effects following vaccination have been reported in total as of Friday, up 523 from the previous day.

Ninety-five deaths have been reported, although the exact causes remain unknown as the KDCA has been unable to determine causality.

Among locally transmitted infections, Seoul reported 240, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province identified 192.

Gangwon Province registered 27; South Gyeongsang Province, 37; Busan, 26; and Ulsan, 47.

The KDCA said there were 29 new imported cases ― 14 South Koreans and 15 foreigners ― up 13 from a day earlier.

The number of patients with serious symptoms reached 165, up three from Thursday.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making a recovery was 116,881, up 859 from the previous day. (Yonhap)




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