(ATTN: ADDS details throughout; CHANGES 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.
Health authorities have been carrying out virus tests on people at nursing homes and hospitals in the greater Seoul area, and they said they plan to expand the scope of the examination nationwide within this month.
Since Oct. 19, South Korea has completed COVID-19 tests on 98,141 people hospitalized or working at 3,199 high-risk facilities in the capital area. More tests are under way in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province.
The country said it is making efforts to come up with measures to carry out such tests regularly as well.
Halloween is a major concern for health officials as young people gathered in the popular entertainment areas of Hongdae, Itaewon and Gangnam in Seoul.
"People who have symptoms of COVID-19, especially those who have attended Halloween events, religious ceremonies and gatherings should receive tests," KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a briefing.
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.
A music school in Seoul added two more patients, raising the tally to 18 as of noon Monday.
A nursing home in eastern Seoul reported three additional COVID-19 cases, with a total of 13 cases being traced to the facility so far.
From southern Seoul, a sauna reported one more patient, with the total reaching 37.
A rehabilitation hospital from Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, added four more cases, with the tally reaching 154.
Health authorities said it is worrisome that there are chains of infections from locations where people cannot wear protective masks at all times, including saunas and restaurants.
Over the past two weeks, 11.4 percent of the newly reported cases had unknown transmission routes. Around 33 percent of the additional cases were cluster infections, the data showed.
"While we hope to find a breakthrough in the development of vaccines and treatments, it is still uncertain exactly when we will actually have a verified and safe cure," Jeong added.
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.
New BTS song 'Film Out' tops Japan's Oricon weekly chart
'Dynamite' becomes 3rd BTS video to top 1 bln views
S. Korea, U.S. authorities assess N.K. has completed building new 3,000-ton submarine: sources
Mamamoo to hold online concert on British streaming platform next month
'Fake Love' becomes 4th BTS video to top 900 mln views
(Yonhap Feature) How young voters, once solid supporters of liberal causes, turned against Moon's party in by-elections
From Rose to Baekhyun, K-pop group idols also shine as solo acts
Moon takes election rout as 'reprimand' from the public, Cheong Wa Dae says
Boy band TXT to perform on Ellen DeGeneres show in latest global push
BTS to stream concerts in weekend Bang Bang Con event
S. Korea voices 'grave concerns' over Japan's expected decision to release Fukushima water into sea
S. Korea, U.S. closely watching N. Korean moves on SLBMs, new submarine: JCS
(LEAD) New virus cases under 600 for 2nd day; spring resurgence in store
(LEAD) Seoul mayor pushes for introduction of self-testing kits, extending hours for small businesses
S. Korea expresses 'strong regret' over Japan's decision to release water from Fukushima