January 09, 2023 09:32
Reported coronavirus infections have dropped for a second week, satisfying one condition for lifting the indoor mask mandate.
But a rapid resurgence of cases in China and the risk of new variants entering Korea keep health officials wary before they make a decision.
On Sunday, 46,766 new cases were reported, down for the third Sunday in a row. The weekly number declined from 471,195 in the third week of December to 458,709 in the fourth week and to 414,673 in the first week of this month.
On Monday morning, new cases fell further to 19,106 but the number tends to be smaller on Mondays as fewer people get tested at weekends.
Earlier, health authorities set four conditions that would lead to scrapping the indoor mask mandate -- a decline in weekly infections for more than two weeks; a decline in seriously ill patients and a fatality rate below 0.1 percent; a more than 50 percent rate of available hospital beds; and a more than 50 percent vaccination rate among elderly people during the winter months.
The proportion of available hospital beds stands at 66 percent.
The problem is the surge in China. On Sunday, 43 out of 291 people arriving from China on short-term visas tested positive for coronavirus. Arrivals from China are required to present a negative test certificate, but one in seven is testing positive at the airport here anyway.
Another risk is that the number of seriously ill patients remains at over 500 for more than 20 days.
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