New Covid infections drop below 100,000
The country reported 90,867 new Covid-19 infections, bringing total cases to 16,674,045, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Thursday. This was down from 111,319 cases the previous day.
The KDCA reported 147 new fatalities, bringing the total death toll to 21,667.
There were 846 critically ill patients, up 38 from the previous day. The number of critically ill patients has remained in the 800s for five consecutive days.
This was the first time new infections dropped below 100,000 in the middle of the week since mid-February. It was the lowest number of infections reported for a Thursday since Feb. 17's 93,126 cases. Weekends and Mondays often have lower numbers due to less testing.
Cases have been on a decline after hitting a peak of 621,178 on March 17. The number of new cases on Thursday was 57,558 fewer than one week ago, with 148,425 reported on April 14, and half that of two weeks ago, when 224,787 infections were reported on April 7.
Since last week, restaurants, cafes and many other businesses no longer have curfews and people are allowed to gather in groups with no size limits. However, mask mandates remain in place.
Kim Yu-mi, a senior official with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, said in a briefing Thursday that it is "premature" to end indoors masking, considering the habit of closed windows and use of air conditioning, crowded environments and people's frequent use of public transportation.
She added even if the outdoor mask mandate was ended, it would be "recommended to continue wearing masks indoors for a considerable period of time to protect high-risk groups and prevent infections."
The government has also been reviewing a complete lifting of quarantines for Covid-19 patients by the end of May.
The Yoon Suk-yeol transition team, however, expressed concern over a premature removal of quarantines Wednesday.
Kim said in the Thursday briefing, "It is not easy for the public to make a sudden change, so we will prepare various countermeasures in stages and evaluate the infection situation and risks during a four-week transition period, and then decide whether to lift the quarantine mandate."
The country began offering a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccines to people 60 and over last week, and the current inoculation rate is 3.8 percent, or 52,332 people. So far 13.8 percent of that age group, or 1.89 million people, have made reservations for a second booster shot.
Some 86.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the KDCA Thursday, defined as two shots, while 64.4 percent received third booster shots.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]