SEOUL, March 7 (Xinhua) -- South Korea confirmed 483 more cases of the COVID-19 on Saturday, raising the total number of infections to 6,767.

As of midnight local time, the number of infected patients totaled 6,767, up 483 from 24 hours ago. One more death was reported, lifting the death toll to 44.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has updated the data twice a day at 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time.

The virus infection soared for the past 17 days, with 6,736 new cases reported from Feb. 19 to March 6. The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest "red" level.

The total number of infections in Daegu, about 300 km southeast of Seoul, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang province increased to 5,084 and 1,049 respectively. It accounted for about 90 percent of the total.

Daegu became the epicenter of the viral spread here as the biggest cluster of infections was found in the metropolis with a 2.5 million population. Daegu has been designated by the government as a "special care zone."

The Daegu cluster was closely linked to the church services of a homegrown minor religious sect, called Sincheonji, in Daegu. Members of the sect are known to sit on the floor closely side by side during church services.

Since Jan. 3, the country has tested more than 178,000 people, among whom 151,802 tested negative for the virus and 19,620 were being checked.

Ten more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, raising the combined number to 118.