South Korea registered over 500 new coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day on Thursday as locally transmitted cases continued to pile up across the country, local media reported on Thursday.

With 540 new cases, the total caseload rose to 35,703, Yonhap News Agency reported quoting the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency data.

Three new virus-related fatalities raised the death toll also rising to 529.

“With no clear signs of a slowdown in the number of new patients, the enhanced measure in the greater Seoul area is likely to be extended into next week as well,” Yonhap quoted Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, as saying.

“We also need to wait until the weekend to assess the impact of the Level 2 social distancing scheme,” he added.

The country’s health authorities imposed the Level 2 social distancing restrictions in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas, home of half of the nation’s population, on Nov. 24 to stem the spread of the virus.

Under the Level 2 scheme, gatherings involving 100 or more people are banned.

Restaurants are allowed to serve food until 9 p.m., with only takeout and delivery services available afterward. For cafes and coffee shops, indoor dining is not allowed.

On Sunday, the country announced a ban on year-end parties and said public saunas and some cafes must also close.

Meanwhile, the country was on high alert as hundreds of thousands of masked students participated in the annual national college entrance exam on Thursday.

Around 490,000 high school seniors, graduates and others signed up for the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), down 10% from last year and the smallest number since the current exam was introduced in the 1994 school year.

The Seoul, local city government, banned cheering at test centers and urged parents not to wait outside due to concerns about the virus.

*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid

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