SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea reported a record number of coronavirus deaths on Thursday (Dec 17) as the country’s largest wave of infections strains hospitals and contact tracers.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported that there had been 22 additional deaths as of midnight on Wednesday, sharply up from a previous high of 13 earlier in the week.
Overall, the country reported 1,014 new cases of the novel coronavirus, including a daily record of 423 in the densely populated capital city of Seoul.
The most daily deaths in previous waves of infections was nine, and for much of the year, South Korea had managed to keep cases low through aggressive tracing and testing.
This new wave emerged from multiple clusters in the Seoul region, challenging tracing efforts. Tighter social distancing rules have failed to reverse the spike in infections and the government has warned it may have to impose a harsher lockdown on business activity to blunt the spread.
Hospitals were at a breaking point with only three critical care beds available as of Wednesday in greater Seoul, an area with a population of almost 26 million people, officials said.
South Korea has now reported a total of 46,453 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 634 deaths.
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