South Korea's new coronavirus cases spiked to above 50 on Wednesday, as an uptick in church-traced infections shows no signs of a letup.
The country identified an additional 54 virus cases, including 35 local infections, raising the total caseload to 14,714, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
It marked the first time since July 26 that the daily new COVID-19 cases hovered above 50. The number had remained between 20 and 40 this month.
Of the locally transmitted cases, 13 were reported in Seoul and 19 others in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, the KCDC said. The southeastern city of Busan added three more cases of COVID-19.
Domestic cases fell to as low as just three on Aug. 3, but sporadic cluster infections, most tied to churches in the capital area, have led to yet another flare-up of the coronavirus.
A total of 34 cases have been linked to a church in Goyang, just north of Seoul, up one from a day earlier. The outbreak at the church has also led to infections at the Namdaemun Market in central Seoul and a day care center in Goyang.
A total of 22 cases have been traced to another church in Goyang, and 17 cases have been also identified at a church in Gimpo, just west of Seoul, up five from a day earlier.
Cases tied to a nursing home in western Seoul reached six, up two cases from the previous day, the KCDC said.
Seven cases have been traced to a gathering of employees from a fast-food restaurant in Seoul, up six since the first case was confirmed on Tuesday.
South Korea had banned church members from having gatherings other than regular worship services amid the soaring number of virus patients, but it decided to lift the regulation on July 24.
Amid concerns over cluster infections, health authorities said they will adopt a quick response (QR) code-based entry authentication system for wedding and funeral service venues.
The measures have been in place at crowded establishments, such as bars, clubs and churches, to quickly track visitors.
On Wednesday, South Korea identified 19 imported cases. The daily rise in imported cases stayed at between 10 and 20 for the third straight day.
Eight of them tested positive for the virus in the screening process at either an airport or a seaport, while 11 others were tested positive for the virus while under self-quarantine, according to the public health agency.
The total number of imported cases is now at 2,591.
The country reported no new virus deaths for the third consecutive day, keeping the number of fatalities at 5, according to the KCDC. The fatality rate reached 2.07 percent.
The number of patients fully cured of the virus reached 13,786, up 57 from the previous day.
South Korea has carried out 1,646,652 COVID-19 tests since Jan. 3.
Meanwhile, health authorities said further study should be conducted to check the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine Russia has claimed to have produced.
On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing. (Yonhap)