South Korea's central bank cut its 2020 economic growth outlook to 2.1 percent Thursday on worries about the soaring COVID-19 cases in the past week.
Bank of Korea (BOK) said in a statement after the rate-setting meeting that the real GDP adjusted for inflation was forecast to grow 2.1 percent this year. It was down from a 2.3-percent expansion estimated three months earlier.
Outlook for consumer price inflation was unchanged at 1.0 percent, which is far below the BOK's mid-term inflation target of 2.0 percent.
The downward revision came amid the growing concerns over the surge of COVID-19 infections.
As of Thursday morning, the number of infected patients totaled 1,595, up 334 from the previous day.
The virus infection soared in the past week, with 1,230 new cases reported on Feb. 19-26. The country raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest "red" level on Sunday.
BOK Governor Lee Ju-yeol and six other monetary policy board members decided to leave the benchmark seven-day repurchase rate unchanged at a record low of 1.25 percent.
The decision was not unanimous. Two members claimed a 25-basis-point rate cut, raising a possibility for the BOK to slash the target rate to a fresh low of 1.0 percent as early as in April.
After the rate-setting meeting, Lee told a press conference that the COVID-19 outbreak already worsened consumer spending and the services industry, including tourism, eatery and lodging, and wholesale and retail sectors.
The governor noted that a significant part of the negative effect would be focused on the first quarter, with a possible negative growth for the South Korean economy.