South Korea added 40,064 new COVID-19 infections, including 16 cases from overseas, bringing the total caseload to 17,544,398, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

In a statement carried by Yonhap News Agency, the KDCA said the country recorded 71 new fatalities, bringing the total to 23,360.

In mid-April, South Korea lifted almost all social distancing rules in a major step toward a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, after restrictions were first introduced in March 2020.

Last week, the government also removed the outdoor mask mandate after more than 18 months of implementation, except for large gatherings of 50 or more. Wearing masks indoors will be in place for some time.