SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 711 new cases of the coronavirus as infections continued to grow in the greater capital area.
It was the third straight day of over 700 cases and the highest daily jump for a Monday since early January, when the country was enduring its worst wave of the pandemic.
Usually a smaller number of cases are reported at the start of the week, due to reduced testing on weekends, and the country’s caseload may grow faster over the next few days.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said around 550 of the new cases came from the populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials delayed a planned easing of social distancing measures to cope with a rise in transmissions.
Cases were also reported in most of the major cities and towns across the country, including Busan, Daejeon and the North and South Gyeongsang provinces.
Health experts have expressed concern over relaxed attitudes on social distancing and criticized the government for sending wrong signals by announcing plans to allow for larger gatherings and longer indoor dining hours.
Prime Minster Kim Bu-kyum on Sunday urged public vigilance and tighter implementation of preventive measures. He criticized labor unionists for going ahead with an anti-government march attended by thousands in Seoul on Saturday despite official pleas to cancel the gathering.
The government had planned to relax social distancing restrictions nationwide at the start of July, raising the cap on private social gatherings from four to six people and allowing restaurants to extend indoor dining by two hours until midnight.
But officials in Seoul and nearby areas have held off the new rules as infections rose.
The country has so far reported 160,795 cases, including 2028 deaths. About 30% of the population have received at least one dose of vaccines.