South Korea reports 168 new coronavirus cases

South Korea has reported 104 new cases of COVID-19 between midnight Tuesday and midnight Wednesday, with 57 of them classified as imported. (Yonhap/The Korea Hearld/ANN)

SEOUL (AP) — South Korea has reported 168 new cases of the coronavirus, the third consecutive day the daily jump came below 200, possibly suggesting the country is starting to see the effects of social distancing restrictions.

The figures brought the national caseload to 21,010, including 333 deaths. Most of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions emerging from churches, restaurants, schools and offices.

Infections were also reported in other big cities, including Bunsan, Gwangju, Daejeon and Daegu, which was the epicenter of the previous major outbreak in February and March. Government officials have decided to extend elevated distancing restrictions in the Seoul area for another week, saying that the speed of viral spread is still at risky levels.

Through next Sunday, restaurants are required to provide only takeouts and deliveries after 9 p.m. Gyms, billiard clubs and after-school academies remain closed. Authorities have also shut down churches and nightspots and shifted most schools back to remote learning nationwide.