SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- Daily coronavirus infections in Seoul and its adjacent area spiked to highest-ever levels on Friday, spawning concerns that the virus could spread fast in South Korea's most populous region.
As of 6 p.m. on Friday, Seoul, home to around 10 million people, reported 58 new cases, a record-high number of daily infections since the outbreak of the disease earlier this year. The previous daily record was 46 tallied on March 10.
Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital also reported a daily high, of 62 cases as of 6 p.m. on Friday, exceeding the previous record of 47 reported a day earlier.
The spikes in cases in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province are partly blamed on cluster infections at churches where sanitation and social distancing rules were not strictly enforced.
According to the health authorities, over the past few days, nearly 200 cases have been linked to six churches and one missionary society in Seoul and its adjacent areas.
"We are in a grave situation, as the greater Seoul area could face another wave of COVID-19 outbreaks," Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing on Friday.
"We are standing at a (critical) juncture over whether the virus outbreak can be brought under control under the current health care system and whether the level of social distancing should be raised," Jeong said.
The country is currently taking Level 1 measures in a three-tier social distancing scheme which was adopted in June. Level 2 could be applied if daily infections exceed 50 for 14 straight days but remain under 100.
Seoul City said that it could consider tightening social distancing if the average number of daily infections exceeds 30. In the past three days, Seoul has reported a daily average infection of 37.7.
The Gyeonggi provincial government has already raised the level of social distancing by restricting gatherings at churches in an effort to stem the further spread of the virus.
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