(4th LD) New cases under 500 over fewer tests; inoculation drive to pick up pace

(ATTN: UPDATES with confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. and vaccination plan in paras 7-12, 18)

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s daily new virus cases fell back to under 500 on Monday due to fewer tests over the weekend as health authorities push to ramp up the vaccination drive on the back of an increased vaccine supply.

The country reported 485 more COVID-19 cases, including 454 local infections, raising the total caseload to 144,637, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Monday’s figure was sharply down from 556 cases on Sunday. But daily cases usually rise on Wednesday and Friday as more people get tested.

Daily caseloads have been going through some ups and downs between the 400s and 700s in recent months with no significant signs of a letup as cluster infections continue to be reported nationwide.

The daily average number of virus cases in the past week was 595.1, up from 583.7 reported in the last week of May.

The country added one more death, raising the death toll to 1,974. The fatality rate was 1.36 percent.

As of 6 p.m., 364 confirmed cases were reported across the country, down 61 from the same time the previous day, according to the health authorities and local governments.

In the greater Seoul area, confirmed cases stood at 283, with 223 reported in other areas.

New virus cases are expected to reach the 400s on Tuesday.

The country plans to increase the number of people who have received one dose of vaccines to 14 million from 13 million by the end of this month, officials from the KDCA said in a meeting with President Moon Jae-in.

In order to achieve herd immunity in November, the country also plans to inoculate 36 million people, accounting for 70 percent of its total population.

The KDCA will make public its third-quarter vaccination plan in the third week of this month.

A total of 7.59 million people, including 2,958 the previous day, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26.

The KDCA said 2.27 million people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for 4.4 percent of the country’s population.

More groups of people are scheduled to receive vaccines this week. Starting Monday, those aged 60-64 will get AstraZeneca vaccines, while military troops aged under 30 will be inoculated with Pfizer vaccines.

Beginning Thursday, the country will start inoculating people with 1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine supplied by the U.S. government. Health authorities plan to use them to vaccinate reserve forces, civil defense members, and others in charge of defense and foreign affairs.

The country is looking to vaccinate teachers at schools and kindergartens beginning July as well as senior high school students and people in their 50s.

People who were fully vaccinated will not be affected by the ban on private gatherings of five and more people starting in July, officials from the health ministry said in a meeting with President Moon.

The authorities plan to open an additional 16 inoculation centers in the third quarter, increasing the total to 282. They will also considering offering more incentives to vaccinated people.

Meanwhile, regarding home-grown vaccine development, the health ministry said five companies have completed phase one clinical trials of their products. Some of them plan to target to start phase three testing as early as July.

A total of 34,447 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, although 94.8 percent of them were mild symptoms.

So far, a total of 208 post-vaccination deaths have been reported, but the exact causes of the deaths remain unknown as causality could not be determined, health authorities said.

Of the 454 newly confirmed locally transmitted cases, 149 came from Seoul, 146 from Gyeonggi Province and 15 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the capital.

The southeastern city of Daegu, once the country’s virus hotspot, reported 26 more cases.

Among virus clusters, the number of cases linked to a wholesale agriculture products market in southern Seoul rose by eight to 136.

A bar in Daegu added seven more cases to 316, while a karaoke venue in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, reported five more cases, raising its total to 31.

There were 31 additional imported cases, up 16 from the previous day, raising the total to 9,181.

Of the new imported cases, seven came from Indonesia, followed by Nepal with six and India with four.

The government said it will focus on containing the spread of the virus in the upcoming vacation season. It recommended a staggered leave system for companies to curb congestion during the summer vacation period.

The authorities will also enforce enhanced social distancing rules for vacation spots and facilities. For instance, cable cars will be advised to fill only half of their capacities.

The KDCA data showed the number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients was 152, up two from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 134,861, up 599 from a day earlier, with 7,802 people being isolated for COVID-19 treatment, down 115 from a day ago.




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