SEOUL - South Korea's highest priority is securing more hospital beds to handle a record surge in coronavirus cases and blunt a corresponding spike in deaths, the country's prime minister said on Wednesday.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA)reported 1,078 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Tuesday, the highest since the start of the pandemic.
The latest number came three days after the daily tally topped 1,000 for the first time since South Korea confirmed its first coronavirus infection in January.
The KDCA also reported 12 more deaths, the second day of double-digit deaths after a record 13 the day before in a country that had kept overall cases and deaths relatively low through aggressive tracing and testing.
The number of severe cases has more than doubled over the past two weeks to hit a record high of 226 on Wednesday.
There were only three critical care bed left in the greater Seoul area with a nearly 26 million population, officials said.
"The top priority is securing more hospital beds," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting, according to a transcript. "Full administrative power should be mobilised so that no patient would wait for more than a day before being assigned to her bed."
He said the government is making all-out efforts to implement current social distancing rules in an effort to avoid having to impose the highest level of restrictions, which would effectively be the country's first lockdown. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Writing by Josh Smith Editing by Shri Navaratnam)