Construction workers line up to take virus tests at a screening center near Seoul Plaza in downtown Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's daily coronavirus cases reached an all-time high of 2,434 on Friday, breaking the previous record of 2,221 on Aug. 10, as mass migrations during the Chuseok holiday caused the rapid spread of the virus across the country.
Health authorities had expected the surge in daily virus cases after millions of South Koreans travelled to their hometowns during Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, which ran from Monday to Wednesday.
The authorities said confirmed cases may further increase in coming days, requesting people take more virus tests and get vaccinated as part of efforts to contain the spread.
The country reported 2,434 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,416 local infections, raising the total caseload to 295,132, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The caseload surged from 1,716 on Thursday. Daily cases have stayed over 1,000 for the last 80 days amid the fast spread of the more transmissible delta variant nationwide.
The country reported seven more deaths from COVID-19 on the day, bringing the death toll to 2,434.On Friday, the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the nation's 52 million population, accounted for 72.3 percent of the newly confirmed domestic cases. Seoul reported 903 cases, and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province reported 704 cases. The western port city of Incheon reported 140 cases.
The bans on private gatherings were eased during the Chuseok holiday, allowing up to eight people to gather on the condition that four of them are fully vaccinated.
But the authorities tightened the restrictions, limiting the number of private gatherings to a maximum of six starting Friday.
A total of 37.1 million people, or 72.3 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 22.6 million people, or 44 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.
The first-shot vaccination rate of 70 percent was achieved before the Chuseok holiday as the country has accelerated its vaccination drive.
Next Monday, the government will announce its plan to vaccinate adolescents aged 12-17 and pregnant women in the October-December period.
Also, people who have been fully vaccinated will be exempt from self-quarantine starting Friday if they don't have any symptoms despite close contact with virus patients.
Imported cases came to 18, including three from the Philippines and two from Uzbekistan. The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 309, down three from the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 264,492, up 1,650 from a day earlier. (Yonhap)