With new Covid cases below 100,000, S.Korea to lift distancing rules

South Korea’s new coronavirus cases fell below 100,000 on Sunday amid the continuing slowdown in infections, with the country set to lift major social distancing rules this week to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

The country added 93,001 more Covid-19 infections, including 18 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 16,305,752, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The tally marked a drop from 107,916 Saturday and 125,846 Friday. Daily virus counts have been on the decline after peaking at 621,178 on March 17 amid the fast spread of the omicron variant.

The death toll from Covid-19 came to 21,092, up 203 from the previous day. The number of critically ill patients came to 893, down from 913 a day ago.

Starting Monday, South Korea will lift all Covid-19 social distancing rules, except the mask mandate, in its major step toward a return to normalcy after restrictions were first introduced in March 2020.

Curfews on restaurants, cafes and other small businesses will be completely lifted, while the limit on the size of private gatherings will also be removed from the 10-person cap.

The country also plans to downgrade the Covid-19 infectious disease level by one notch to the second-highest level of its four-tier system.

This means Covid-19 patients will not be obliged to be in quarantine and they will receive treatments at local clinics like an endemic disease. The new rule will be implemented in late May after a four-week transition period.

As of midnight Saturday, 44.53 million, or 86.8 per cent of the 52 million population, had fully been vaccinated, and 33 million, or 64.3 per cent, had received booster shots, the KDCA said.

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