By Agency Reporter
Daily new COVID-19 cases in South Korea bounced back to over 1,000 Monday due to soaring infections in a Seoul prison and care homes across the country.
Yonhap news agency said the explosion in cases was also because of continued community infections, despite extended tougher virus curbs.
The country added 1,020 more COVID-19 cases, including 985 local infections, raising the total caseload to 64,264, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Monday’s daily caseload marks a sharp rise from 657 on Sunday and 824 on Saturday, which declined due largely to less testing on the New Year’s Day holiday.
The average daily number of new cases stood at 941 over the past week.
Nineteen people died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 981.
To cope with the largest-ever pandemic, health authorities on Saturday extended the Level 2.5 distancing measures — the second highest in the five-tier scheme — for the greater Seoul area and Level 2 for the rest of the country until Jan. 17.
South Korea also decided to apply the ban to private gatherings of more than four people, which has been in place for the greater Seoul area, to the rest of the country.
As the country has reported 10 cases of a more transmissible coronavirus variant first reported in Britain, officials are tightening restrictions on the entry of foreigners.
Starting Friday, foreigners arriving at South Korean airports must present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours before their departure to the nation, the KDCA said.
The average number of locally transmitted cases stood at 931.3 over the past week, down 8.4 percent from a week earlier, the KDCA said.
About 70 percent of them occurred in the Seoul metropolitan area, and care facilities were the largest sources of group infections, it noted.
A total of 149 patients have died over the past week, with those aged over 60 accounting for 98 percent of the deaths.
Health authorities said the virus curve has been slowly flattening but expressed worries over mass infections among elderly people living in care facilities.
“(Authorities) will continue to monitor high-risk facilities, including nursing homes, and expand preemptive testing,” KDCA chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a briefing.