South Korea confirmed 2,924 additional COVID-19 cases for 21 hours through 9 p.m. Friday, an all-time high for that time.
It is almost certain that the daily count will surpass 3,000 for the first time in an announcement to be made on Saturday morning.
A total of 2,924 additional cases had been reported nationwide as of 9 p.m., up 490 from the same time a day earlier, according to health authorities and local governments.
Among them, 1,223 cases were reported in Seoul, 806 in the surrounding province of Gyeonggi and 195 in the western port city of Incheon.
It is unprecedented for newly reported infections in Seoul alone to exceed 1,000 in a single day.
The surge in daily virus cases came after millions of South Koreans traveled to their hometowns during Chuseok, the Korean autumn harvest celebration, which ran from Monday to Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) made public that coronavirus cases, confirmed through Thursday, reached an all-time high of 2,434.
It said about 40 percent of confirmed cases were untraceable.
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.
The authorities said 1.07 million doses of Moderna vaccines will arrive at Incheon International Airport Saturday afternoon, raising the total amount of COVID-19 vaccines supplied to South Korea to 74.92 million doses.
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.