People wait in line for a COVID-19 test at a testing site set up near the Seoul Station in central Seoul, Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea reported more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row on Saturday amid the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The new daily infections came to 102,211, including 102,072 local infections, raising the total caseload to 1,858,009 the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
The death toll from COVID-19 reached 7,354, up 71 from Friday.
The fatality rate was 0.4 percent, the KDCA said.
The number of critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 408, up 23 from a day earlier.
South Korea has seen caseloads spike in recent weeks as the omicron variant raged across the country, with the daily counts nearly doubling in just a week after surpassing 50,000 for the first time on Feb. 10.
The daily infections exceeded 100,000 for the first time on Friday.
Health authorities forecast that the omicron wave will likely start to peak between the end of this month and early March, with the daily caseload expected to reach 130,000-180,000.
Despite the virus surge, the government on Friday decided to ease the business hour curfews for cafes and restaurants by one hour to 10 p.m., for the next three weeks, a move unwelcomed by some experts amid concerns over a further virus uptick.
The decision came amid a strong backlash from small merchants and self-employed people who have complained that prolonged antivirus measures are dragging down sales.
The cap on private gatherings will stay unchanged at six people.
The partially relaxed antivirus curbs will be in place until March 13. (Yonhap)