New cases under 1,500 for 2nd day; infections in capital area at peak
Seoul (South Korea), September 14: South Korea's daily coronavirus cases stayed under 1,500 for the second straight day Tuesday as health authorities worry about a potential virus flare-up during a major holiday that starts later this week.
The country added 1,497 COVID-19 cases, including 1,463 local infections, raising the total caseload to 275,910, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The latest caseload was up 64 from 1,433 cases the previous day. Virus cases usually begin spiking Wednesday when more people receive tests.
Daily cases have stayed above the 1,000 threshold for more than two months amid the fast spread of the more transmissible delta variant nationwide.
The country added seven more deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,367. The fatality rate was 0.86 percent.
Infections in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population, have been hampering the authorities' containment efforts, with nearly 80 percent of domestic cases being reported in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon.
The KDCA said the country's virus reproduction rate reached 1.01 after moving upwards since the second week of August.
Health authorities are urging people to receive vaccine shots and follow virus prevention measures more thoroughly during the Chuseok holiday, the Korean autumn harvest celebration, when tens of millions of people are expected to travel across the country. South Koreans will have a five-day holiday period through Wednesday.
The authorities will enforce special quarantine measures, including running COVID-19 testing clinics at highway rest stops, for two weeks through Sept. 26. They expect the daily population movement during this year's Chuseok holiday period to increase 3.5 percent from a year earlier.
The authorities earlier extended the current social distancing measures -- Level 4 in the greater Seoul area, which is the highest in the four-tier system, and Level 3 in other regions -- for another four weeks through Oct. 3.
While the country is limiting the size of private gatherings and restaurant business hours, it has eased some restrictions to give leeway to vaccinated people.
A total of 33.15 million people, or 66.2 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 20.48 million people, or 39.9 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.
South Korea's COVID-19 vaccination program has been using vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Janssen.
The authorities said a first-shot vaccination rate of 70 percent is expected to be achieved this week. The country aims to reach herd immunity in November and hopes it can apply an enhanced virus response scheme for a gradual return to normalcy.
Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 529 were from Seoul, 454 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 124 from the western port city of Incheon.
Busan, the country's second-largest city, reported 38 cases, while South Chungcheong Province added 57 cases.
Imported cases, which include South Korean nationals, came to 34, up 10 from the previous day. The total number of imported cases is now at 14,003.
The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 34, down two from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 247,647, up 2,142 from a day earlier.