(ATTN: ADDS death toll in 3rd para and more info in paras 4-5, 15-17)
SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea continued to see a decline in new coronavirus cases Sunday, but Seoul and the surrounding areas reported a continued rise in virus infections due to cluster transmission and imported cases.
The 81 new cases of COVID-19, detected Saturday and slightly down from 94 new cases a day earlier, brought the country's total cases to 10,237 and marked the 24th consecutive day that new infections have hovered around 100 or fewer additional cases, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The country's death toll rose by six to 183, with more than half of fatalities being patients aged 80 or older, the KCDC said. Two more deaths -- a 75-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man, both with underlying diseases -- were reported in the southeastern city of Daegu but have yet to be added to the official tally.
Of the 81 new COVID-19 cases, 40, or 49.4 percent, are imported cases involving entrants from foreign countries, the KCDC said.
The rate of imported cases out of total new confirmed COVID-19 cases has steadily increased from 34 percent on March 4 since health authorities began conducting such a tally.
A total of 36 additional cases were reported in Seoul and the surrounding areas that include Gyeonggi Province and the western port city of Incheon, bringing the total to 1,203 in the region, it said.
Seoul reported 24 new cases, bringing the total to 552, partly due to cases involving people from overseas, the KCDC said.
Gyeonggi Province reported 10 additional COVID-19 cases after 18 people tested positive for the virus at Uijeongbu St. Mary's Hospital.
The number of daily new cases in the metropolitan area has continued to increase mainly due to mass cluster infection cases at major general hospitals and churches and imported cases.
Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, the nation's two worst-affected regions, reported seven and four new cases, respectively, the KCDC said. The total number of cases reported in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province reached 6,768 and 1,314, respectively.
The country also detected 24 cases coming from overseas at quarantine checkpoints, raising the country's total number of imported cases to 741.
Despite a slowing but still continuing spread of cluster cases, the country on Saturday decided to extend its social distancing campaign for another two weeks until April 19.
The government-initiated campaign was first introduced on March 22. It prohibits mass gatherings while also advising people to voluntarily keep their distance from others.
Citizens are strongly urged to stay home, except for essential needs or jobs. The government has also strongly recommended that people suspend religious gatherings, indoor sports activities and visits to nightclubs and other entertainment venues.
Starting Sunday, penalties against those who violate self-isolation measures have been strengthened as health authorities strive to stop recurrence of COVID-19 transmissions.
Under the measure, people who violate a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine measure will face up to one year in prison or up to 10 million won (US$8,090) in fines.
To stop coronavirus cases coming from abroad, the government has required all arrivals to self-quarantine for two weeks since Wednesday.
The KCDC said 138 more people have fully recovered and been released from quarantine, bringing the total number of cured people to 6,463.
As of Saturday, 3,591 were receiving treatment, down from 3,654 the previous day, according to the KCDC.
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