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3rd wave of pandemic gets bigger as new virus cases soar to over 8-month high of 583

National 09:31 November 26, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Yonhap) -- The daily number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea surpassed 500 for the first time in over eight months on Thursday due to sporadic cluster infections across the country as health authorities strive to curb a third wave of infections.

The country added 583 more COVID-19 cases, including 553 local infections, raising the total caseload to 32,318, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

It marks the first time that the country's daily virus cases exceeded 500 since March 6, when the figure reached 518 due to a massive outbreak in the southeastern city of Daegu.

It is also above the peak in the country's second wave of virus infections on Aug. 27, when 441 cases were confirmed in a single day.

The daily caseload has stayed in the triple digits since Nov. 8, with the figure over 300 from Nov. 18-22. It dropped to 271 on Monday but bounced back to 349 cases Tuesday and 382 cases Wednesday.

This photo taken on Nov. 25, 2020, shows health workers clad in protective gear giving a citizen a COVID-19 test at a makeshift virus testing clinic in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Health authorities have been trying to curb a third wave of the pandemic before a nationwide college exam on Thursday next week, but cluster infections from private gatherings, public facilities, hospitals and the military are dragging down their containment efforts.

To better cope with rising virus cases, the authorities raised the social distancing level by one notch to Level 2, the third highest in the country's five-tier system, in the Seoul metropolitan area, where the majority of virus cases have been identified, and began to apply enhanced measures from Tuesday.

Other municipalities have been also enforcing tougher distancing rules depending on their virus situation. Level 1.5 distancing is currently in place in Gangwon Province and the country's southwestern Jeolla region.

But since the country's virus infections show no signs of letup, health authorities are likely to review options of enforcing stricter social distancing rules nationwide.

The country reported two additional deaths from COVID-19, raising the total to 515.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 26,950, up 125 from the previous day.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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