Health officials said the declining trend of Covid-19 has reached its limit, predicting new infections might likely rebound in the short run.
"We think that the decline in the spread of Covid-19 of the past few weeks has reached its limit," said Im Sook-young, a senior official at the Central Disease Control Headquarters. "The nation has maintained a downward trend since the peak of the Omicron outbreak in March, but the downturn has recently slowed down."
Daily cases will likely go up and down a little, for the time being, Im added.
The country added 9,896 new Covid-19 infections, including 119 from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 18,339,319, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
"The quarantine authorities predict that immunity, strengthened by vaccination and many natural infections during the Omicron pandemic, will decline," Im said. "Based on this trend, the nation might see an increase in confirmed cases. However, it is still too early to judge the recent daily trend as the start of a resurge.”
The headquarters evaluated the risk of Covid-19 in both the Seoul metro region and the rest of the country as "low" in the fourth week of June.
Korea has been maintaining a risk level for Covid-19 at a low for six consecutive weeks from the third week of May.
The infection reproduction index remained below 1 for 13 consecutive weeks at 0.91 but has been increasing for the past four consecutive weeks, again showing a slowing trend in the epidemic's decline.
The reproduction index shows the average number of people a patient can transmit the virus. If the index rises above 1, it is difficult for epidemiological investigations or quarantine responses to keep up with the spread of the virus.
Imported cases also have been growing after Korea relaxed entry rules for overseas travelers. The average number of import cases stood at 38 for the first week of June, but it rose to 92 in the fourth week.
"As the number of international flights and overseas arrivals increases, the number of confirmed cases entering the country is increasing, and the number of cases imported from abroad will continue to increase in the future," Im said. "However, policies to restrict foreign inflows, such as strengthening entry monitoring, are a matter to be decided by comprehensively reviewing the necessity for normal recovery and the proportion of overseas inflows. We are continuously monitoring new variations.
Unless a situation of great concern arises, Korea plans to maintain the current system, for the time being, Im added.
As of Tuesday, 44.62 million had completed the full two-dose vaccinations, and 33.36 million had received their first booster shots. More than 4.39 million people had gotten their second booster shots, the KDCA said.