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New cases over 2,000 for 6th straight day amid eased virus rules

A coronavirus testing center in western Seoul is busy with people who came to get tested on Sunday. (Yonhap)
A coronavirus testing center in western Seoul is busy with people who came to get tested on Sunday. (Yonhap)
South Korea on Monday reported more than 2,000 daily coronavirus cases for six days in a row, fueling worries of a surge in COVID-19 infections after the country relaxed its virus-related restrictions early this month.

The country reported 2,006 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,986 local infections, raising the total caseload to 397,466, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The number of daily cases has stayed in the quadruple digits since July 7, with the tally peaking at a record 3,270 on Sept. 25.

The country added 12 more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 3,115. The fatality rate stood at 0.78 percent.

Health authorities warned of a possible surge in daily infections and serious cases under the eased social distancing scheme aimed at bringing the country closer to pre-pandemic life.

On Nov. 1, the government began its "living with COVID-19" policy as part of a broader plan to lift the virus restrictions by the end of February.

Under the first of the three-phase scheme, people are allowed to gather in groups of up to 10, regardless of vaccinations. Limits on business hours for restaurants, cafes and movie theaters are fully lifted, except for adult entertainment facilities, such as clubs and bars.

The number of patients in critical conditions shot up after the eased virus curbs.

The number of infected senior citizens rose as the effect of the vaccination has begun to taper down for those who received the shots early this year. Breakthrough cases at nursing homes and hospitals also increased.

The number of patients in critical condition reached 471 after jumping to an all-time high of 485 on Saturday.

About 41.92 million people, or 81.7 percent of the country's 52 million population, had received their first COVID-19 vaccine shots as of Sunday. The number of fully vaccinated people came to 40.1 million, or 78.1 percent.

The KDCA expects full vaccination rates to reach 80 percent around mid-December.

Of the locally transmitted cases, the larger Seoul area, home to half of the total population, took up more than 80 percent.

Seoul reported new 859 cases, with 602 in the surrounding province of Gyeonggi and 102 in Incheon, a port city just west of Seoul.

The number of new imported cases came to 20, raising the total to 15,390, the KDCA said. (Yonhap)