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Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea on Saturday reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic got underway, with 950 new cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

By the numbers: South Korea has a total of 41,736 coronavirus accumulated cases and 578 confirmed deaths, and the number of daily cases has been increasing since November.

Details: About 680 of the new cases can be traced to Seoul, where transmissions are emerging in hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants, saunas, schools and army units, AP reports.

  • Cases were also reported in other urban areas, such as Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan and Daegu, a southeastern city that was the hotspot of the spring outbreak.
  • Officials loosened the country's social distancing mandates in October, but have since restored some restrictions, including shuttering nightclubs and limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout service.

What they're saying: South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the country's surge an "emergency situation."

  • "We plan to extensively expand drive-through and walk-through coronavirus testing methods … as preemptive measures to track down infected people and block the spread," he said in a Facebook post, per Reuters.
  • Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the country needs to tighten social distancing restrictions, banning gatherings of more than 10 people, closing schools, halting professional sports and requiring companies to set work-from-home policies.

Zoom out: Tokyo reported 621 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, setting its own record.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Jan 19, 2021 - Health

Fauci: U.S. could achieve herd immunity by fall if vaccine rollout goes to plan

NIAID director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that if the coronavirus vaccine rollout by the incoming Biden administration goes as planned, the U.S. could start to see effects of herd immunity and normalcy by early-to-mid fall.

What he's saying: "If we [vaccinate] efficiently in April, May, June, July, August, we should have that degree of protection that could get us back to some form of normality. ... But we've also got to do it on a global scale," he said at a Harvard Business Review virtual event.

Jan 20, 2021 - Health

In photos: U.S. cities light up for coronavirus victims

Doug Emhoff, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden face the Reflecting Pool as they observe a moment of silence at a memorial for COVID-19 victims at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Cities across the U.S. lit up to honor Americans killed by the pandemic, as President-elect Joe Biden led a national mourning during a sunset ceremony in Washington, D.C., on the eve of his inauguration.

The big picture: Standing at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, surrounded by 400 lights to commemorate lives lost to COVID-19, Biden said: "To heal, we must remember." From New York City to Miami, city buildings were illuminated as part of this "national moment of unity," as the U.S. coronavirus death toll surpassed 400,000.