(2nd LD) New cases slightly over 1,700; concerns grow over further spread after Chuseok holiday

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South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases increased to over 1,700 on Tuesday despite fewer tests over the weekend, adding to woes that infections could further increase after the Chuseok holiday in the wider capital area.

The country reported an additional 1,729 COVID-19 cases, including 1,697 local infections, raising the total caseload to 289,263, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It was the third straight day the daily caseload fell under 2,000, but the latest figure marked the country’s highest-ever figure for a Monday, the KDCA data showed. The daily tally is counted until midnight and announced the following morning.

Also, it marked the country’s highest-ever figure for a Saturday, Sunday and Monday for three days in a row, the KDCA said.

The country added four more deaths from COVID-19 on the day, raising the death toll to 2,413.

The fourth wave of the pandemic, which began in July, has not shown signs of letting up, with the daily caseload staying above 1,000 for 77 consecutive days on Tuesday amid the fast spread of the more transmissible delta variant nationwide.

Of the total locally transmitted caseload reported Tuesday, around 77 percent were from Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan regions.

A total of 36.52 million people, or 71 percent of the country’s population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 22,18 million people, or 43.2 percent, have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.

South Korea’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which began in February, has been using vaccines from Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

The first-shot vaccination rate of 70 percent was achieved before the Chuseok holiday, as the country has accelerated its vaccination drive.

Health authorities remain on high alert as the virus could spread in non-capital regions in a fast manner after the five-day break for Chuseok, the Korean harvest holiday, set to run through Wednesday, when a large number of people usually travel across the nation.

Earlier this month, the government extended the highest social distancing rules of Level 4 of its four-tier system for Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, and Level 3 for other regions until Oct. 3.

But it eased some restrictions, allowing family gatherings of up to eight people on the condition that four of them are fully vaccinated. Instead, it has been enforcing special quarantine steps, such as running makeshift test centers at major bus terminals and train stations to continue to ensure a thorough diagnosis system.

Of the newly confirmed domestic cases, 673 cases came from Seoul, 499 from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 130 cases from the western port city of Incheon, the KDCA said.

Imported cases, which include South Korean nationals, came to 32. The total number of imported cases is now at 14,222.

The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 328, down four from the previous day.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 260,090, up 1,079 from a day earlier.