SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new COVID-19 cases fell for a fourth consecutive day to stay below 30,000 on Saturday as the government kept tight vigilance with the postponement of a plan to relax more antivirus curbs.
The country added 23,462 new COVID-19 infections, including 11 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,938,399, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The daily counts have continued to fall from 31,352 on Wednesday to 28,130 on Thursday and 25,125 the following day. The highly transmissible omicron wave peaked in mid-March with the daily count hitting over 620,000.
The country added 26 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, putting the total at 23,911. The fatality rate stood at 0.13 percent.
The number of critically ill patients came to 235, down from the previous day's 251.
The downward trend in the virus curve has given a boost to the government's efforts to restore pre-pandemic normalcy, enabling it to lift most virus restrictions, such as the cap on private gatherings and business curfews.
The government, however, announced Friday it will push back the plan for the next relaxation steps, including the lifting of a seven-day self-isolation mandate for COVID-19 patients, by four weeks to June 20.
The government predicts another virus resurgence could hit the country in the summer and peak between September and October. If the isolation requirement is scrapped, the caseload could bounce back by up to 4.5 times between June and July, according to its forecast.
As of midnight Friday, 44.56 million, or 86.8 percent of the population, had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.26 million, representing 64.8 percent, had received their first booster shots. More than 3.79 million people had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA said.