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SEOUL, Dec. 5 (Yonhap) -- The daily number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea fell back to below 600 on Saturday, following a nine-month high the previous day, continuing to put the country under a critical alert over a bigger wave of the pandemic amid the winter.
The country added 583 more COVID-19 cases, including 559 local infections, raising the total caseload to 36,915, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). It reported four additional coronavirus fatalities, bringing the total to 540.
The KDCA said an average 514.6 daily new cases occurred over the past one week.
South Korea reported more than 500 daily new infections for three consecutive days through last Saturday, before briefly falling back to 450 cases last Sunday due to less testing over the weekend.
The increase in daily cases stayed above 500 for the second consecutive day Thursday and topped the high from nine months ago Friday, with 629 cases.
Amid concerns that the country could face the biggest crisis to date, the authorities have said they will monitor the current pace and decide Sunday on whether to adopt additional measures after adopting enhancing Level 2 social distancing nearly two weeks ago.
What is more concerning is that the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country's population, has been witnessing its daily new cases soar to a record high for the past few days.
On Friday, the Seoul city government announced that stores, theaters and multiple other facilities must close after 9 p.m. for two weeks.
Businesses subject to the new restriction include stores, movie theaters, internet cafes, game arcades, private academies, study halls, amusement parks, beauty salons, barber shops, large grocery stores and department stores. They can reopen at 5 a.m.
By region, 231 new virus cases were reported in Seoul, 150 cases in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds the capital, and 19 cases in Incheon, west of Seoul, together accounting for more than 77 percent of the country's daily new locally transmitted cases. The greater Seoul area is home to around half of the nation's 51.6 million population.
Other municipalities reported new infections, with the southern port city of Busan reporting 29 cases, followed by South Gyeongnam Province with 27.
A total of 159 new cases were reported outside of the greater Seoul area Saturday, exceeding the 100 mark every day since Nov. 24, except for Thursday.
The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 121 as of midnight, the KDCA said.
The country added 24 imported cases, down from 29 a day earlier, coming mainly from the United States and Asian countries, excluding China, the KDCA said.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 28,917, up 306 from the previous day.