|South Korea's Daily new virus cases remained under 600 for the second straight day Friday, as the government decided to extend the current social distancing rules for another three weeks to stem infection clusters. Yonhap|
Daily new COVID-19 cases remained under 600 here for the second straight day Friday, as the government decided to extend the current social distancing rules for another three weeks to stem infection clusters.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 565 more coronavirus cases, including 525 local infections, raising the total caseload to 147,422.
The daily number marked an increase of nine from Thursday's 556 infections but stayed in the mid-500s for the second consecutive day. New coronavirus cases stayed in the 400s, Monday and Tuesday, but spiked to the 600 range, Wednesday and Thursday.
New daily infections have been oscillating between the 400s and 700s in recent months with no significant signs of a letup due to sporadic infection clusters nationwide.
The administration said the current distancing rules will be extended until July 4. Currently, the greater Seoul area, Daegu, Jeju Island and a few other areas are under Level 2 measures, the third highest in the country's five-tier COVID-19 alert system, while many other regions are under Level 1.5, although a ban on private gatherings of five or more people remains across the country.
Under a new plan, the authorities plan to ease business curfews, with restaurants and entertainment facilities in the capital area permitted to operate until midnight, an extension from the current limit of 10 p.m.
The partly eased virus curbs come as the country's vaccination drive is gaining traction.
A total of 11.39 million people have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, including 792,835, Friday, accounting for 22.2 percent of the country's population, since the government started its inoculation program Feb. 26.
The KDCA said 2.8 million people, or 5.6 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated.
South Korea is trying to inoculate 14 million people by the end of the month and 36 million by September in a move to achieve herd immunity in November, but it hopes it can reach the goal earlier than expected with the increased vaccine rollout.
In addition to vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the country started to use the Janssen vaccine supplied by the U.S. government for reserve forces, civil defense members and others in charge of defense and foreign affairs, Thursday.
A total of 453,732 people received Janssen's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of its release for use.
The health authorities said the vaccine from Moderna is expected to be available next week.
Of the 541 newly locally transmitted cases, 205 were in Seoul, 170 in Gyeonggi Province and 19 in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital.
The southeastern port city of Busan, the country's second-largest city, reported 13 more cases.
There were 40 additional imported cases, raising the total to 9,292; and among these, 34 were from Asian nations, excluding China, and three from Africa.
The KDCA data showed the number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 155, up two from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making a recovery was 138,037, up 813 from a day earlier, while 7,403 people were in isolation for treatment. (Yonhap)