A Seoul citizen takes a Covid-19 test at a makeshift testing center at Cheonggye Stream, central Seoul, on April 24, 2022, amid the slowdown of the Omicron wave. (Yonhap)

SEOUL – South Korea's new coronavirus cases fell below 50,000 on Saturday as the omicron curve has turned downward and the country is set to lift the outdoor mask mandate.

The country reported 43,286 new Covid-19 infections, including 12 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,237,878, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The number of new virus cases marks a sharp drop from 50,568 reported the previous day.

There were 70 more Covid-19 deaths, with the death toll rising to 22,794.

The number of critically ill patients stood at 490, down 36 from the previous day.

South Korea's Covid-19 cases have been decreasing after peaking in mid-March at over 600,000. The daily tally dropped to the 30,000s on Monday for the first time in 76 days.

Starting Monday, South Korea will lift the outdoor mask mandate, though people are still required to wear a mask when they attend gatherings of 50 or more people or use multiuse facilities.

Amid the waning pandemic, health authorities also downgraded Covid-19 to the second-highest level of the four-tier infectious disease control system earlier this week.

Of the locally transmitted infections, Seoul reported 6,455 cases and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province added 10,342 cases.

As of midnight Friday, 45.03 million, or 87.7 percent of the 52 million population, had been fully vaccinated, and 33.12 million, or 64.5 percent, had received their first Covid-19 booster shots, the KDCA said.

A total of 2.04 million people, or 4 percent of the population, have received second booster shots across the country. (Yonhap)