By Joori Roh
SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean health official said on Sunday that a third wave of the novel coronavirus is being contained, as it reported the lowest number of new infections in nearly four weeks with the help of tougher restrictions during the New Year holiday season.
New cases for Saturday numbered 657, much lower than 824 the day before, but bringing the country's total cases to 63,244 with 962 deaths, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
"The latest third wave of coronavirus spread is being contained as a result of expanded COVID-19 testing (recently) and strengthened distancing measures," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, told a briefing.
He said the worst for the country seems to be passing, though added it is premature to say the situation has definitely shifted to a decline, given the decreased testing during the New Year holiday and weekends.
The government decided on Saturday to expand a ban on private gatherings larger than four people to include the whole country, and extend unprecedented social distancing rules in Seoul and neighbouring areas until Jan. 17.
(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by David Gregorio and Kim Coghill)