South Korea reports record deaths amid omicron surge

Mar 14, 2022, 8:56 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2022, 1:47 pm

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea had its deadliest day yet of the pandemic on Tuesday, with 293 deaths reported in the latest 24 hours, as the country grapples with a record surge in coronavirus infections driven by the fast-moving omicron variant.

The 1,196 virus patients in serious or critical conditions were also a new high. Health officials said the country’s medical response remains stable following efforts to expand resources, with more than 30% of intensive care units designated for COVID-19 treatment still available. But the strain on the hospital system is expected to increase in coming weeks, considering the time lags between infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We anticipate the number of (serious or critical cases) to grow to around 2,000. We are preparing our medical response for that,” senior Health Ministry official Park Hyang said during a briefing.

South Korea has reported a daily average of around 337,000 new cases in the past seven days, including 362,283 on Tuesday, representing more than an 80-fold increase from levels seen in mid-January, when omicron emerged as the dominant strain. The country’s caseload is now over 7.2 million, with 6.4 million added since February.

Park said because of high vaccination rates, the country has so far weathered the omicron surge with lower levels of fatalities than what was seen in the United States and Europe, which was hit by the variant earlier. More than 62% of South Koreans have received booster shots.

The country so far has 17.6 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 285.5 deaths in the U.S. and 237.5 in Britain, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The omicron variant has forced South Korea to abandon a stringent COVID-19 response based on mass laboratory tests, aggressive contact tracing and quarantines to focus limited medical resources on priority groups, including people 60 and older and those with preexisting medical conditions.

The omicron surge and its growing economic toll will pose an immediate major challenge for conservative South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol, who will take office in May after narrowly winning last week’s election.

Yoon has been critical of the COVID-19 response under current liberal President Moon Jae-in, which was seen as a relative success before a devastating delta-driven spread in the winter, accusing officials of maintaining an unsustainable approach that squeezed medical workers and livelihoods before being broken by omicron.

Yoon has promised relaxed social distancing rules and stronger financial support for small businesses, but has yet to issue clear-cut plans to cope with the expected increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

Health officials have recently significantly eased quarantine restrictions and border controls and stopped requiring adults to show proof of vaccination or negative tests when entering potentially crowded spaces like restaurants so that more public and health workers could respond to rapidly expanding at-home treatments. The country has also reshaped its testing regime to be centered around rapid antigen tests, despite concerns over their accuracy, to save laboratory tests mostly for high-risk groups.

Officials may take further steps to ease social distancing soon after extending the curfew at restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other businesses earlier this month to ease the pandemic’s shock on service sector businesses.

More than 1.6 million virus carriers with mild or moderate symptoms have been asked to isolate at home to save hospital space, the KDCA said.

The country will also begin a vaccine rollout for children between the ages of 5 and 11 later this month.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

At least 6 people wounded in shooting at school in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — At least six people were wounded in a shooting at a school in Oakland on Wednesday, officials said. The scene of the shooting was “no longer active,” according to Alameda County Sheriff spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly. Paramedics had transported six patients to hospitals, all with gunshot wounds, according to Oakland Fire […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Michigan lawmakers agree on early absentee ballot processing

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan election officials could begin processing absentee ballots two days before the Nov. 8 election under an agreement lawmakers reached Wednesday in hopes of avoiding delays in counting, with absentee voting expected to remain a popular option. Michigan is one of several key swing states that allows no-excuse mail-in ballots but […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

JetBlue, Southwest spar over slots in antitrust trial

Senior executives of JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines argued in court Wednesday over JetBlue’s controversial partnership with American Airlines that the Biden administration is seeking the thwart. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told a federal court in Boston the partnership will help his airline grow, accommodate customers whose flights gets canceled, and attract more corporate travelers. […]
16 hours ago
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Jackson, Miss., regardin...
Associated Press

Mississippi city with water woes to replace some lead pipes

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Officials in Mississippi’s capital city said Wednesday that workers have found lead in water pipes at 16 buildings out of nearly 24,000 checked so far — the latest indication of problems in Jackson’s long-troubled water system. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba acknowledged “no level of lead is permissible” in drinking water. […]
16 hours ago
FILE - This Jan. 7, 2021, image taken from Coffee County, Ga., security video, appears to show Cath...
Associated Press

Georgia election officials discuss breach, security measures

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Election Board held a meeting Wednesday meant to reassure board members and the general public that the state’s elections remain secure following the revelation of a breach of voting equipment in one county. The meeting included a presentation on state election law, an explanation of how the state’s voting […]
16 hours ago
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman tosses beer to fans on the 18th green during the final round of the LIV Go...
Associated Press

LIV Golf refutes report of deal to buy TV time on FS1

Saudi-funded LIV Golf refuted a report Tuesday that it was close to a U.S. television deal in which it would buy time to be shown on FS1. Golfweek cited multiple sources it did not identify in saying the agreement is still being finalized. It would go against what Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
South Korea reports record deaths amid omicron surge