Seoul: South Korea’s new coronavirus cases fell to below 15,000 on Monday mainly due to fewer tests over the weekend amid rising concerns about a recent resurgence in infections.
The country added 12,693 new Covid-19 infections, including 180 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,524,583, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
Monday’s figure nearly doubled from 6,253 cases logged a week earlier, as the country has seen an increase in infections from June-end, Yonhap news agency reported.
The KDCA reported 18 deaths from the virus, putting the death toll at 24,661. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 per cent.
The number of critically-ill patients came to 71 on Monday, up from Sunday’s 67.
The new infections dropped markedly from the peak of more than 620,000 in mid-March but have risen again from June-end to hit more than 10,000 on June 29 and hover over 20,000 for two days in a row from Saturday.
Health authorities confirmed the country has entered a new wave of Covid-19, citing the fast spread of the highly contagious mutation of the Omicron strains, and experts have warned the daily count could surge to around 200,000 in August.
The new subvariant BA.5 has been spreading fast, with its proportion of the country’s total infections rising to 24.1 per cent in the fifth week of June from the previous week’s 10.4 per cent.
The authorities expected BA.5, which is known to be more contagious and better able to escape immunity, to become a dominant Covid-19 variant in the country soon.
The other factor behind the resurgence is declining immunity, as the protection by a vaccine or an infection decreases over time.
The growth in outdoor activities after eased social distancing rules and the increased usage of indoor air conditioning systems over an early heatwave also caused the country to see an upward trend, experts said.
In line with the resurgence, the government is discussing a new set of anti-virus measures, which are expected to be announced on Wednesday, according to officials.
In April, the government removed almost all strict anti-virus rules to support the people’s return to normalcy, including private gathering limits and business hour curfews.