South Korea’s new coronavirus cases fell below 5,000 for the first time in three days Monday as the country reimposed toughened social distancing rules amid concerns over the spread of the omicron variant.
The country added 4,325 new Covid-19 infections, raising the total caseload to 477,358, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s (KDCA) figures.
Daily infections soared to a record high of 5,352 cases on Saturday before falling to 5,127 on Sunday.
On Monday, the government began four-week stricter social distancing rules to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the omicron variant.
Under the new measures, which will remain effective until January 2, private gatherings are limited to six people in the greater Seoul area and eight in the rest of the country.
More business facilities now need to require visitors to be fully vaccinated or to show a negative Covid-19 test result for entry. Newly added to the so-called vaccine pass system include restaurants, coffee shops, cram schools and internet cafes.
The businesses are given a one-week grace period. Starting next Monday, they will be fined 1.5 million won ($1,260) if they fail to abide by the new system. The fine can go up to 3 million won for repeated violations. They can also be ordered to close for good for more than four violations.
Individual violators can be fined 100,000 won each time they violate the vaccine pass system.
The KDCA has confirmed 24 omicron cases, up 12 from a day earlier. Two were from overseas and 10 were confirmed to have locally contracted the virus variant.
The number of critically ill patients came to 727 on Monday, down 17 from a day ago, while the death toll rose 41 to 3,893. The fatality rate stood at 0.82 per cent.
As of Sunday evening, 80.4 per cent of intensive care unit beds nationwide were occupied, with the occupancy rate higher in Seoul and its surrounding areas at 86.6 per cent.
A total of 982 Covid-19 patients in the greater Seoul areas were waiting to be admitted to hospital as of the end of Sunday. Among them, 309 people had been waiting for more than four days, according to the KDCA.
Of the total infection cases, Seoul reported 1,408 new cases, while 1,314 cases came from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 302 from Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.
The number of cases from overseas came to 29, raising the total to 15,894.
On the vaccination front, 83.1 per cent of the country’s 52 million population have at least received one shot of the vaccine, while 80.5 per cent have received two shots.