South Korea recorded its deadliest day on Saturday since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with 112 confirmed deaths in the past 24 hours, as it tries to deal with a wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant.
Health workers diagnosed 166,209 new positives, which was close to the worst daily South Korean record, the 171,451 positives last Wednesday, 37 times more than the figures from mid-January, when omicron began to be the dominant variant in the country.
Until now, this version of the coronavirus seemed less likely to cause serious illness or death than the delta, which hit the country in December and early January. But hospitalizations and deaths are beginning to rise amid an outbreak that is taxing already exhausted health workers.
More than 640 cases are in serious or critical condition, the country’s Agency for Disease Control and Prevention said, up from around 200-300 in mid-February. According to the Ministry of Health, around 44% of the country’s intensive care units reserved for COVID-19 patients are occupied.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday that authorities expect this new wave to peak in mid-March, when around 250,000 cases per day could be recorded.
More than 86% of the more than 51 million inhabitants of the country have the complete vaccination schedule, and about 60% have received the booster dose. The country has been administering a fourth injection to nursing home and long-term care facility workers to protect them from omicron.
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