SEOUL, South Korea (PA) – South Korea reported 1,062 new cases of coronavirus, the third day in a row of more than 1,000, as Seoul authorities warn that hospital beds are low.
Seoul City said a 60-year-old COVID-19 patient died at home on Tuesday after officials did not find him a hospital bed for days. The city said an “explosive increase” in patients this month led to an “overload of administrative and medical systems.”
Figures released by the Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Friday raised the number of cases to 47,515.
The death toll rose to 645 after 11 more patients died overnight. Of the 12888 active patients, at least 246 were in serious or critical condition, the highest number since the pandemic.
Son Young-rae, a senior Health Ministry official, said there were only 49 intensive care beds left for COVID-19 patients nationwide, with only four of them in the capital. He said health authorities plan to provide another 170 intensive care beds by early January by designating several hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
Health authorities are also expanding a massive testing program to find and isolate virus carriers faster. Son said the country tested more than 80,000 people alone on Thursday and plans to test patients and workers at long-term care units once a week or two.
South Korea plans to deliver more than 84 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. This would be enough to cover 44 million people in a population of about 51 million.
Yang Dong-gyo, a senior KDCA official, said he hopes to vaccinate between 60% and 70% of the population by November 2021, before the start of the new flu season.
More than 760 of the new cases came from the densely populated metropolitan area of Seoul, where health workers are struggling to stop transmissions related to various places, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants, churches, schools and military units.
The viral renaissance has put pressure on the government to raise restrictions on social distancing to the highest levels, something political policymakers have endured for weeks because of economic concerns. Such measures would ban the meetings of more than 10 people, close hundreds of thousands of non-essential companies and force companies to work more employees from home.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:
– The number of COVID-19 infections in a cluster in the northern suburbs of Sydney continued to rise on Friday, and the strain appears to have originated in the United States, authorities said. Tests on Thursday and early Friday revealed 28 new infections. Several had attended the Avalon Beach RSL club on December 11 and a nearby grass bowling club called the Avalon Bowlo on December 13, said Kerry Chant, New South Wales Health Director. More than 250,000 people in the local government area of Sydney’s northern beaches were advised on Thursday to work from home and stay home for as long as three days. Others were advised to avoid moving to the area. Authorities have not yet identified the source of the cluster, but next week New South Wales will tighten hotel quarantine rules for international aircrews flying between Sydney and the United States. Australia’s largest city spent 12 consecutive days without community broadcasts until Wednesday, when a driver carrying international aircrews in a van to and from Sydney Airport tested positive. His strain was also from the United States. The Australian states have responded to the Sydney cluster by introducing various travel restrictions. The Western Australian state, which has not had a case of community transmission since April 11, is asking all travelers in New South Wales to be quarantined in hotels for 14 days.
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