(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 11, 13; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, May 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new virus cases remained in the 500s for the second day Friday as the country remained guarded against a potential upsurge in variant cases.
The country reported 525 more COVID-19 cases, including 509 local infections, raising the total caseload to 126,044, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
The daily caseload reached 488 on Monday on fewer tests over the weekend but rose to the mid-500s on Tuesday and to over 600 on Wednesday.
The country added nine more deaths, raising the death toll to 1,860, the KDCA said.
Acting Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki said health authorities will make all-out efforts to pull down the daily new cases below 500 per day on average. The reproduction rate is under 1 this week, indicating that a virus patient infects less than one person.
In an enhanced measure against rising mutated cases in the southeastern city of Ulsan, the health authorities increased the number of temporary screening centers to 10 from three in the city and advised citizens to take virus tests.
More than 300 cases reported in the city since early March are believed to be the mutant virus from Britain.
As of Tuesday, variant cases from Britain, South Africa and Brazil reached 632.
Hong also said the government will make efforts to curb the spread of the mutated virus from India.
The second group of more than 200 South Koreans returned home Friday from virus-hit India via a special flight and more people are scheduled to arrive here this month. The first group of over 170 South Koreans came back here Tuesday.
Hong said the government has been operating a task force to support the development of COVID-19 vaccines by local companies.
With an aim of achieving herd immunity by November, the authorities are accelerating the vaccination campaign.
A total of 3,608,616 people, including 41,965 the previous day, have received at least their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 7 percent of the country's population, since the country started its vaccination program on Feb. 26.
AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given to 1.96 million people, while 1.65 million have received that of Pfizer.
A total of 18,871 cases of side effects after vaccinations have been reported, up 611 from a day earlier.
A total of 92 post-vaccination deaths have been reported, although the exact causes of the deaths remain unknown as they could not determine causality, the health authorities said.
Of the locally transmitted cases, Seoul reported 177 new cases, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city identified 136 new patients.
Gangwon Province registered eight additional cases, South Gyeongsang Province 30 cases, and Busan and Ulsan, major cities in the southeastern region, reported 20 and 35 new cases, respectively.
There were 16 new imported cases, up four from a day earlier, the KDCA said. The number of patients with serious symptoms across the country reached 162, down 10 compared with the previous day.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 116,022, up 531 from a day earlier.
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