|People wearing face masks as a precaution against COVID-19 watch a choreographed fountain show at a park in Seoul, April 4. AP-Yonhap|
New daily COVID-19 cases fell below 200,000, Friday, as the spread of the Omicron variant continued to slow after reaching a peak last month.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 185,566 new infections, including 40 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 15,169,189.
Daily infections have been declining in recent weeks after an all-time high of over 620,000, March 17. The authorities are expected to lower the pandemic's infectious disease level to reflect the downward trend.
A total of 338 died Friday, raising the toll to 19,092, for a fatality rate of 0.13 percent. The number of critically ill patients fell by six to 1,099 from a day earlier, the KDCA said.
The government said it is considering lifting social distancing rules and allowing people to go mask-free outside if the virus stays in check through the end of next week.
On Monday, South Korea eased social distancing rules nationwide to help reduce the plight of small merchants and business owners hit hard by the pandemic.
The cap on private gatherings has been raised to 10 people from eight, and the business hour curfew on restaurants and cafes has been extended by one hour to midnight.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday the government will finalize its decision on adjusting the infectious disease level soon.
COVID-19 is currently classified as a Class 1 infectious disease, the highest in the four-tier classification that includes Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome, but the government is considering downgrading it by one notch.
Class 1 infectious diseases require high-level measures, such as negative pressure isolation, and the immediate reporting of an outbreak.
A downgrade in the infectious disease level can lead to significant changes in virus responses, such as reducing the quarantine period or even lifting self-isolation measures.
The number of fully vaccinated people stood at 44.51 million, or 86.7 percent of the 52 million population, while 64.1 percent had received booster shots, the KDCA said. (Yonhap)