(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in 4th para)
SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases retreated to the 1,500s on Saturday, but the fourth wave of infections is showing little signs of letting up despite weeks of the toughest antivirus rules in the greater Seoul area.
The country added 1,539 COVID-19 cases, including 1,466 local infections, raising the total caseload to 198,345, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The latest tally is down from 1,710 cases reported Friday.
As of 6 p.m, the country reported 1,181 new cases, down from 1,204 the same time the previous day, according to the KDCA. The daily total is counted until midnight and announced early the next day.
The country added six more COVID-19 deaths, raising the death toll to 2,095. The fatality rate was 1.06 percent.
One of the deaths was reported from a 20-something patient with underlying diseases, who was confirmed to have contracted the virus in January. The latest case raised the number of deaths reported from the age group to five.
The daily caseload has remained above 1,000 since July 7 due to the resurgence in the greater Seoul area. Recently, cases elsewhere have been growing amid increased activities in the summer vacation season.
Health authorities are considering additional measures to contain the fourth wave of the pandemic as new cases continue across the country despite strict virus curbs.
South Korea has extended the highest social distancing measures of Level 4 in the Seoul metropolitan area until Aug. 8.
The toughest restrictions ban gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m., place a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes, and order nightclubs and other entertainment venues to not operate.
Areas outside the greater capital region are under Level 3 measures through Aug. 8, though some municipalities have adopted Level 4 measures to better contain the virus.
Under Level 3, cafes and restaurants can accept customers until 10 p.m., and only takeout and delivery services are available after that time. Private gatherings of five or more people are banned.
South Korea is also working to boost its vaccination drive by expanding inoculations to the younger population.
Health authorities said vaccinations for 17.77 million people aged 18-49 will take place from Aug. 26 to Sept. 30 with mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
A total of 19.2 million people, or 37.4 percent of the country's 51.3 million population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 7.1 million people have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.
From Wednesday to Friday, the number of potential side effects reported among people vaccinated came to 3,796, according to health authorities.
Of the total, 3,653 involved mild symptoms, such as headaches and muscle pain, while five -- two each in their 60s and 70s, and one in his 30s -- died. Authorities will look into the possible correlation between their vaccinations and deaths.
Of the 1,466 domestic cases, infections from non-capital areas reached 528, or 36 percent of the total, after rising to the 30 percent mark in mid-July.
South Gyeongsang Province and the central city of Daejeon reported 97 and 86 cases, respectively.
In the capital area, Seoul reported 468, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province added 383. The western port city of Incheon confirmed 87 cases.
New cases from overseas arrivals reached 73, up 25 from the previous day, bringing the total to 11,896.
Of the newly added imported cases, which also include South Korean nationals, 19 came from Uzbekistan, followed by Indonesia with nine and the United States with eight.
The number of patients with unknown transmission routes accounted for 28 percent of the newly confirmed patients in the past two weeks, raising concerns over potential asymptomatic silent spreaders.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 174,177, up 1,420 from a day earlier.
The number of patients in critical condition came to 317, up 18 from the previous day. It marked the first time since January that the number surpassed 300.
South Korea has carried out 11,728,821 COVID-19 tests so far, including 45,853 the previous day.
(LEAD) BTS praises youth for welcoming challenges of COVID-19 pandemic
BTS returns home after visit to U.N., New York
BTS praises youth for welcoming challenges of COVID-19 pandemic
BTS, Coldplay drop collab single 'My Universe'
Moon says BTS helped spread awareness of climate change, other global issues
(LEAD) Moon proposes formal end to Korean War for irreversible progress in denuclearization efforts
Yoon says he will request redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes in case of emergency
(LEAD) N. Korea rejects Moon's proposal of end-of-war declaration as 'premature'
(LEAD) USFK makes public Teak Knife surgical strike drill amid N.K. military moves
Unification minister says end-of-war declaration useful means to kick-start nuclear talks
Worker at facility accommodating Afghan evacuees confirmed to have coronavirus
Daily new cases fall below 3,000 amid lingering woes over spreading virus
BTS performs from iconic Seoul gate for 'Global Citizen Live'
PM Kim says no change in plan for phased recovery to normal life despite virus surge
(LEAD) N.K. leader's sister holds out prospect of end-of-war declaration, inter-Korean summit