South Korea reports three-week high of 490 COVID-19 cases

SEOUL: South Korea reported a three-week high of 490 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday (Mar 13), with infections creeping higher as the authorities prepare for a broad vaccine roll-out.

The daily tally as of midnight on Friday was up slightly from 488 the day before to the highest since Feb 19, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Of Friday’s total, 474 were locally transmitted infections and 16 imported.

This brings the country’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 95,176 with 1,667 deaths. Nearly 70 per cent of the domestically transmitted cases have been from the capital, Seoul, and its neighbouring areas, where about half the nation’s 52 million people live.

READ: South Korea extends social distancing rules to stamp out infections amid vaccination drive

READ: South Korea extends use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and over

South Korea plans to begin vaccinating the elderly in the second quarter of this year, starting with people over the age of 65 at nursing homes, according to a KDCA official. The government is to announce details of the vaccination plan next week.

The country has administered 583,658 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of midnight on Friday, according to the KDCA, including both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech shots.

Health authorities in several countries, including Denmark, Norway and Iceland, have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots forming in some people who have been vaccinated.

South Korean health authorities said they will continue to closely monitor reports related to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and quickly respond if they find similar cases to those reported abroad.

The government said on Friday it will extend current social distancing rules with a ban on private gatherings of more than four people in a bid to stamp out the possibility of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in the country.

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