South Korea's new coronavirus cases returned to below 100 on Saturday after triple-digit infections were reported for the past two days, as sporadic cluster infections continued at senior care hospitals and other risk-prone facilities.
The country added 77 more COVID-19 cases, including 66 domestic infections, raising the total caseload to 25,775, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
New virus cases exceeded 100 for the past two days. Daily new cases came to 155 on Friday, marking the highest since Sept. 11 when the number hit 176. The uptick was due to continued cluster infections at hospitals and facilities for the elderly, who are vulnerable to COVID-19.
The country's new virus infections have been on a downward trend after a flare-up in the number of daily COVID-19 cases from mid-August to mid-September.
Compared with mid-August and early September when the tally rose by triple digits, the country has largely managed to slow the spread of the virus on the back of tougher social distancing measures.
Last week, the country relaxed its social distancing scheme to the lowest level in its three-tier system, after applying Level 2 measures across the nation since late August.
Under Level 1 measures, citizens are permitted to normalize most of their daily routines, with some infection prevention steps in place. Even risk-prone facilities, including clubs and bars, are allowed to operate after monthslong suspension as long as they keep entry logs and follow sanitary measures.
But continued rises in sporadic cluster infections at facilities for senior citizens have become the biggest huddle in the country's virus fight.
Health authorities urged people to thoroughly keep sanitary measures under the Level 1 virus curbs as cluster infections continue to rise at vulnerable facilities.
Of the newly identified local infections, 22 cases were reported in Seoul, 32 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital and two cases in Incheon, west of Seoul. The greater Seoul area is home to around half of the nation's 51.6 million population.
The country, meanwhile, added 11 imported cases, bringing the total to 3,627. Four cases came from the United States, followed by three from the Philippines, and one each from India, Indonesia, Iraq and Ukraine.
South Korea reported two additional deaths, raising the death toll to 457. The fatality rate was 1.77 percent.
The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 60 as of midnight, down from 62 the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 23,834, up 117 from the previous day. (Yonhap)