South Korea reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases for the first time in five months Sunday due mainly to a spike in infections in the greater Seoul area.
The country added 279 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total caseload to 15,318, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
It marks the first time since early March that the new daily infections surpassed 200. The country reported more than 200 new daily infections for days after the number peaked at 909 on Feb. 29 with Daegu and its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province at the center of the mass outbreak.
The number of new cases is the most since March 8 when the country reported 367 cases. It also marked a three-digit number for the third straight day, following 166 infections on Saturday and 103 on Friday.
Of the 279 new cases, 267 were local transmissions, also the most since 366 on March 8. The figure for Saturday was 155.
A total of 141 of the 279 cases were reported in the capital city of Seoul and 96 were from the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Seoul and the Gyeonggi Province accounted for 85 percent of the new infections, the KCDC said.
Alarmed by a resurgence of infections in recent days, the government raised social distancing in Seoul and its neighboring areas by one notch to Level 2 in the three-tier system for two weeks from Sunday. But health authorities are concerned about the further spread of the virus out of the capital area.
Sporadic cluster infections have shown no signs of a let-up, with most cases traced to small and medium-sized churches in the greater Seoul area.
Infections tied to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul spiked to 134 as of 2 p.m. Saturday, while cases linked to the Woori Jeil Church in Yongin, south of Seoul, increased to 105. Local authorities have ordered the churches’ congregations to take COVID-19 tests.
Sporadic infections have also been reported in recent days from the fast-food franchise Lotteria, an investment company, offices, schools and coffee shops.
Twelve people arriving from abroad were also confirmed to have the virus Sunday, an increase from 11 cases the previous day.
South Korea, meanwhile, reported no additional fatalities, keeping the death toll at 305. The fatality rate was 1.99 percent.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 13,910, up nine from the previous day.