Korea reported new Covid-19 cases of below 200 for two consecutive days on Friday, but the government extended the Level 2.5 social distancing scheme in the greater Seoul area for another week.

“Although the number of confirmed cases has recently decreased somewhat, we have not entered a stable state yet,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a daily task force meeting. “Rather than hastily easing quarantine measures and cause a crisis, we must do our utmost to create a positive outcome.”

Chung said that the government apologizes for the difficulties the quarantine measures have caused to the nation’s economy and the inconvenience in people’s everyday lives. Still, the extended action is necessary to avoid further damage in the future.

The prime minister’s remark came after the nation saw a continued decrease in the daily confirmed cases, which significantly increased Aug. 17 due to simultaneous cluster infections spawning from religious institutions and anti-government demonstrations.

The public health authorities imposed an enhanced social distancing regime last Sunday in the greater Seoul, which houses half of the 51-million populations.

Under the scheme, restaurants could offer only takeout after 9 p.m., and franchise coffee chains could provide only takeaways around the clock.

The government’s anti-pandemic task force decided to extend the Level 2.5 social distancing for another week in the Seoul metro region. It also will prolong the Level 2 social distancing in the rest of the country, banning indoor meetings of more than 50 people and open-air gatherings of over 100 people. The so-called risk-prone facilities, including karaoke rooms, clubs, PC cafes, and buffets, have also been ordered to shut down.

The nation reported 198 new virus cases -- 189 local infections and nine foreign arrivals -- raising the cumulative caseload to 20,842 as of midnight Friday, the Korea Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention said.

Two more people died from the virus, increasing the death toll to 331 on Friday, while 254 patients recovered from the virus, increasing the number of cured patients to 15,783, with 4,728 receiving treatment. The nation has tested 2,018,906 suspected patients since Jan. 3.

The proportion of new patients with unknown infection routes recorded the biggest share of 24.4 percent over the past two weeks. Health officials are on high alert as such a high percentage of cases may result in more unknown infections in local communities.

Of the locally transmitted cases, 122 came from the greater Seoul area, including Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

Health officials also reported additional infections in other municipalities and provinces, with South Chungcheong Province reporting 20 new cases, followed by 10 in Gwangju, seven in Daegu, four in North Gyeongsang Province and North Chungcheong Province, three in Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan, and South Gyeongsang Province, and one in South Jeolla Province.

The nation reported nine imported cases. Two patients were from China and Russia, one from Turkey, France, the U.S., Brazil, and Ethiopia.

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