S.Korea's coronavirus cases at 3-wk low, below 200 for fourth day

SEOUL, Sept 6 (Reuters) - South Korea on Sunday reported the smallest rise in coronavirus infections in three weeks, remaining under 200 for a fourth consecutive day as tighter restrictions cap a second wave.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 167 cases of the new coronavirus for the 24 hours through midnight Saturday, down from 168 the previous day.

That brings the country’s total infections to 21,177 with 334 COVID-19 deaths. Success in crushing early outbreaks was partially reversed after a wave infections among members of a church spread when they attended a political rally in mid-August.

Daily infections have hovered below 200 for four days after peaking at 441 in late August, as tougher social distancing curbs have taken effect.

The measures have included unprecedented restrictions on eateries in the Seoul area, where the spread is concentrated, banning onsite dining after 9 p.m. and limiting coffee and bakery franchises to takeout and delivery all day.

The government on Friday extended the curbs until Sept. 13, saying more time is needed to induce sharper drops in new infections.

South Korea’s efforts have been complicated by a strike of 16,000 interns and resident doctors who oppose the government’s plans to reform the medical sector to better handle future epidemics.

The country’s top medical body agreed on Friday with the government to end the walkout, only to face an immediate backlash from trainee doctors who rejected the deal and continued the strike.

The trainee physicians are likely to return to work on Monday, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday. (Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by William Mallard)