• S. Korea's Daily Virus Tally Drops Below 600 Again As Vaccinations Ramp Up
A health care worker takes swab samples for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center. (Photo: Yonhap)

South Korea's daily virus caseload dropped below 600 on Friday as cluster infections continued to put pressure on the country's fight against the pandemic.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 541 new local infections and 15 additional imported cases from the past 24 hours, bringing the total case count to 146,859.

The death toll rose to 1,981.

While a majority of the latest confirmed cases were from the greater Seoul area, health authorities have also been closely monitoring the continued rise in outbreaks outside of the capital.

A cluster linked to a bar in Daegu has grown to over 370 cases, a live cafe in Daejeon has reported more than 40 infections and a restaurant in Changnyeong County in South Gyeongsang has confirmed 85 related cases of COVID-19.

South Korea aims to stop the spread of the coronavirus by vaccinating 70 percent of its 52-million population by the end of September.

So far, 20.6 percent of the population have received at least their first shots of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The number of those who are fully vaccinated topped 2.6 million or 5.1 percent.

In addition to vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the country started to use the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine supplied by the U.S. government for reserve forces, civil defense members and others in charge of defense and foreign affairs.

Health authorities said the Moderna vaccine is expected to be available for use next week.

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