South Korea reports highest daily COVID-19 deaths for 2021, as severe cases rise

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South Korea reported 20 COVID-19 deaths for Wednesday, the highest daily count this year, as the number of severe cases more than doubled since the current and worst wave of infections began in July.

While total case mortality rates remain low at below 1% and no major strains on its healthcare system is reported yet, South Korean authorities have been trying to secure more ICU beds for severe patients which are on the rise along with record new infections.

The number of critical or severe cases jumped to 425 as of Wednesday from 155 as of July 7, around when the fourth wave of infections began. The country has 833 intensive care beds for severe COVID-19 patients and 250 of them were available as of Tuesday, according to the health ministry.

On Thursday it kicked off vaccination for people aged 18 to 49, as it aims to give at least one dose to 70% of the population and fully vaccinate 50% by September.

South Korea has been struggling to boost its immunisation drive that began in February amid supply shortages and shipment delays, with about 52.7% of its 52 million people having received at least one dose, while just 26% are fully vaccinated.

Of the eligible 15 million in the 18-49 age bracket, just below 70% had signed up for vaccination, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea reported 1,882 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 243,317. A total of 2,257 people have died so far, the KDCA data showed. 

Photo: Foreigners in full protective gear arrive at Incheon International Airport, in Incheon, South Korea. EPA-EFE/YONHAP