(ATTN: CHANGES headline and lead; UPDATES figures in paras 5, 7)
SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's daily new coronavirus cases stayed in the 1,700s for the second straight day Thursday, with the toughest virus curbs likely to be extended in the greater Seoul area amid no signs of a letup.
The country added 1,776 COVID-19 cases, including 1,717 local infections, raising the total caseload to 205,702, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The latest tally marked a sharp rise from 1,219 cases Monday and 1,202 cases Tuesday. It is also up from 1,725 cases Wednesday.
There were two additional deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,109. The fatality rate came to 1.03 percent.
Later in the day, health authorities and local governments said 1,574 new cases were confirmed from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, 75 fewer than at the same time the previous day.
The daily total is counted until midnight and announced the following day.
Health authorities expected daily infections to reach as many as 1,700 cases on Friday, given the spreading pandemic in non-capital areas.
The daily caseload has remained above 1,000 since July 7, due to outbreaks centered in the greater Seoul area. Recently, cases outside of Seoul have been growing amid increased activities in the summer vacation season, while the highly transmissible delta variant is also hindering the country's containment efforts.
As the current wave of the pandemic has yet to be brought under control, health authorities are expected to extend the current distancing rules, which have been in place since mid-July for another two weeks. They will decide whether to extend antivirus curbs Friday.
The greater Seoul area, home to around half of the population, currently enforces the toughest distancing measures of Level 4, while most other areas are under Level 3.
The toughest distancing restrictions ban gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m., place a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes, and suspend operations of nightclubs and other entertainment venues.
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.
A total of 20.3 million people, or 39.6 percent of the country's population, have received their first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, and 7.4 million people have been fully vaccinated, the KDCA said.
The country aims to administer a single vaccination shot to 36 million people, or 70 percent of its population, by September with hopes of reaching herd immunity in November.
Health authorities said they have upgraded the vaccination booking system to help the nationwide inoculation program run smoothly. The online reservation service crashed last month, forcing people to wait hours to make their reservations.
The authorities added vaccinations for people with developmental disabilities and those living in vocational rehabilitation facilities will start on Aug. 26 with mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Of the 1,717 domestic cases, infections from non-capital areas reached 692, or 40.3 percent of the total, after rising to the 30 percent mark in mid-July.
Busan, the country's second-largest city, and the southeastern city of Daegu reported 111 and 120 cases, respectively.
In the capital area, Seoul reported 461, while the surrounding Gyeonggi Province added 475. The western port city of Incheon confirmed 89 cases.
Among the virus clusters, a religious facility in Daegu reported 101 cases, while a bathhouse in Busan added four more cases, raising its total to 123.
A food factory in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, confirmed 11 additional cases, coming to a total of 65.
New cases from overseas arrivals reached 59, down two from the previous day, bringing the total to 12,189.
Of the newly imported cases, nine came from Uzbekistan, followed by Myanmar, Turkey and Morocco with seven each.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries was 180,719, up 1,596 from a day earlier.
The number of patients in critical condition came to 369, up 40 from the previous day.