South Korea recorded almost 600 new cases of coronavirus – the highest in more than eight months – as the country scrambles to contain a third wave of infections despite months of stringent safety measures nationwide.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said that “sporadic cluster infections across the country” from private gatherings, public facilities, hospitals and the military were behind most of the 583 new cases on Thursday.
The latest figure marks the first time daily cases of COVID-19 has exceeded 500 since March 6, when the figure reached 518 due to an outbreak in the city of Daegu.
The number is also higher than the second wave peak of 441 cases on August 27, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Daily infections have been in triple digits since November 8.
With cases accelerating, the defence ministry announced a temporary ban on vacations and off-installation trips for all troops starting on Friday after a cluster of cases emerged at an army boot camp.
Until December 7, all troops will also be subjected to tightened social-distancing rules inside their barracks.
The third wave of COVID-19 in the country also now threatens a nationwide college entrance examination, which are due to be held in a week.
The total number of cases since the pandemic began has already hit 32,318, although the number of deaths has remained relatively low at 515.
South Korea’s response to the pandemic has been often praised by health experts as one of the most effective with mass testing rolled out at the early stage of the pandemic.
Its contact-tracing technology has also been cited for its efficiency, although concerns about privacy have also been raised.
In response to the latest wave of infections, health authorities have raised the social-distancing level to the third highest in the metropolitan area of Seoul, which has most of South Korea’s active cases.