(ATTN: UPDATES with more info, latest tally, remarks throughout; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new infections fell back below 100 on Monday, snapping rises of over 100 for five consecutive days, as sporadic cluster infections were still rampant in the wider Seoul metropolitan area.
The country added 97 more COVID-19 cases, including local infections, as cluster infections in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province rose at a rapid clip, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The total caseload rose to 26,732.
The figure marked a slight fall after triple-digit gains for five consecutive days: 103 new cases reported Wednesday, 125 on Thursday, 114 on Friday, 127 on Saturday and 124 on Sunday, it said.
The latest fall came as fewer tests are usually carried out on weekends compared with weekdays. Halloween celebrations on Saturday in the middle of eased social distancing steps were also a cause for concern.
"Daily new cases posted a double-digit growth for Monday, yet we have to consider that the number of tests being taken on the weekend tends to be lower," Second Vice Health Minister Kang Do-tae said in a government response meeting.
Since the country eased its three-tier social distancing measures by one notch to the lowest level on Oct. 12, the daily figures have shown ups and downs, hovering around 100.
The latest virus upticks came mostly from senior nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but sporadic community infections have been on the rise at small gatherings, including family meetings, across the country.
Halloween is a major concern for health officials as young people gathered in the popular entertainment areas of Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam in Seoul.
On Sunday, the authorities announced a new five-tier social distancing regulations four months after the government made public the three-tier social distancing steps on June 28. The revisions are more specific and tailored antivirus steps.
The new scheme will take effect Saturday.
By region, 20 new virus cases were reported in Seoul, 40 cases in Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital and two cases in Incheon, west of Seoul. The greater Seoul area is home to around half of the nation's 51.6 million population.
Other municipalities reported new infections, with the southeastern province of South Chungcheong adding 11 cases.
The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 49 as of midnight, up from 41 the previous day.
The country added 18 imported cases coming mainly from Asian countries, excluding China, down from 23 a day earlier, the KDCA said.
South Korea reported two additional deaths of COVID-19 patients, raising the death toll to 468.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 24,395, up 38 from the previous day.
The country has carried out 2,636,650 coronavirus tests since Jan. 3, including 6,020 tests the previous day.
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