SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily number of new cases neared 700 for the third consecutive day Friday as health authorities have warned of a bigger and longer-than-expected wave of the pandemic during the winter, putting the country's medical system on edge.
The country reported 689 new virus cases, including 673 domestically transmitted ones, raising the total caseload to 40,786, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
Of the 689 new virus cases, 512 were reported in the greater Seoul area that covers Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, west of Seoul.
Friday's daily caseload marks a slight rise from 682 the previous day and is the second-highest mark since January, when the country reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case.
The number of confirmed cases hit a record high of 909 on Feb. 29. Eight additional coronavirus deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 572.
Health authorities warned the current wave of the pandemic is growing bigger than the previous ones and last longer, warning that a spike in new coronavirus cases is threatening to undermine the country's medical system with the number of seriously ill virus patients rising rapidly amid looming shortages of hospital beds.
Adding to concerns is the rising ratio of untraceable infections, according to health authorities.
The percentage of virus cases with unclear transmission routes stayed in the range of 15 percent to 16 percent out of the total in the first six days of December but rose to 20.5 percent Thursday.
As part of efforts to curb the virus flare-ups, health authorities will expand virus tests in the greater Seoul area, which has emerged as a hotbed of new infections, on Monday for the next three weeks.
About 150 temporary screening centers will be set up in the Seoul metropolitan area, the authorities said.
The number of imported cases reached 16, down from 36 the previous day. They include four from the United States, three from Europe and four from Africa.
The number of COVID-19 patients with serious symptoms across the country amounted to 169, down from 172 on Thursday.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries came to 31,157, up 520 from Thursday.
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