By Heekyong Yang
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea reported a three-week high 490 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, with infections creeping higher as the authorities prepare for a broad vaccine rollout.
The daily tally as of Friday midnight was up slightly from 488 the day before to the highest since Feb. 19, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Of Friday's total, 474 were locally transmitted infections and 16 imported.
This brings the country's total coronavirus infections to 95,176 with 1,667 COVID-19 deaths. Nearly 70% of the domestically transmitted cases have been from the capital, Seoul, and its neighbouring areas, where about half the nation’s 52 million people live.
South Korea plans to begin vaccinating the elderly in the second quarter, starting with people over age 65 at nursing homes, according to a KDCA official. The government is to announce details of the vaccination plan next week.
The country has administered 583,658 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Friday midnight, according to the KDCA, including both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
Health authorities said they will continue to closely monitor reports related to AstraZeneca's vaccine and quickly respond if they find similar cases abroad.
Health authorities in several countries, including Denmark, Norway and Iceland, have suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine after reports of blood clots forming in some people who have been vaccinated.
The government said on Friday it will extend current social distancing rules with a ban on private gathering of more than four people in a bid to stamp out the possibility of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in the country.
(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by William Mallard and Gerry Doyle)