SEOUL: South Korea reported 69 new COVID-19 cases on Monday (Mar 9), bringing the country’s total infections to 7,382, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The updated numbers came a day after some officials expressed cautious hope the outbreak may be slowing, with the rate of increase dropping to its lowest in 10 days on Sunday.

READ: Mayor in virus-hit South Korean city says COVID-19 outbreak may be slowing

South Korea has conducted one of the most ambitious coronavirus testing programmes in the world, with thousands of people being tested every day.

Facing shortages of face masks, the government will impose a rationing system to limit the number of masks each person can buy each week, starting on Monday.

On Sunday, South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun issued a public message, asking citizens to “actively cooperate” with the efforts to make sure healthcare workers and sick people have access to enough masks.

“Even if you feel inconvenienced, I ask you to show a mature sense of civil awareness, based on concessions, consideration and cooperation so that people who really need face masks can buy them,” he said.

READ: COVID-19 travel bans trap South Koreans abroad

The government has imposed export restrictions on masks and urged factories to increase production.

South Korea has also faced an increasing number of travel restrictions, with more than 100 other countries imposing at least some restrictions on arrivals from South Korea.

The issue of travel restrictions rekindled a political and economic feud between South Korea and Japan last week, as South Korea said on Friday it would suspend visas and visa waivers for Japan in response to Tokyo’s own travel restrictions on Koreans.

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