World

US and South Korea set grim records for daily infections

US sees more than 248,000 infections while South Korea records 1,078 cases

The US and South Korea set records for daily infections as the Covid-19 pandemic threw up more grim statistics.

The US on Tuesday recorded more than 248,000 infections registered in the past 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University virus monitor reported.

In the same period, 2,706 new deaths were recorded.

The number of hospitalised Covid patients - 113,000 - is also at its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in March, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

California is especially facing a dearth of intensive care beds. Fewer than 100 were available on Tuesday in the densely populated Los Angeles county, home to 10 million people.

Officials ordered thousands of extra body bags on Tuesday.

The situation has grown severe across southern parts of California, which was praised for its response at the start of the pandemic in spring, but which has seen Covid-19-related hospital admissions soar sixfold since mid-October.

Ambulance waits of up to five hours before patients can be transported to crowded hospitals have been reported.

"We just had to order 5,000 additional body bags... that should be sobering," said Governor Gavin Newsom, warning the state is "in the middle of the most acute peak" of the disease.

"I don't want... to scare folks. But this is a deadly disease, and we need to be mindful of where we are. We are not at the finish line yet," he added.

RECORD DAILY RISE

South Korea is in a similar situation.

It reported a record daily rise in cases yesterday and the prime minister issued an urgent call for more hospital beds to cope with the country's worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitals were at breaking point with only three critical care beds available in greater Seoul, an area with a population of almost 26 million people, 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."

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 1,078 cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic. The number of severe cases also hit a record of 226 and has more than doubled over the past two weeks, officials said.

The KDCA reported 12 more deaths, the second day of double-digit fatalities after a record 13 the day before.

South Korea had managed to keep cases relatively low during the previous two waves of infection, but the third wave has proven far more challenging for contact tracers to contain.

The government said it was working to secure several hundred critical care beds, and thousands more for patients who were less ill.

Most of the new beds came from public hospitals and authorities were considering expanding incentives to boost cooperation from private institutions, senior health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said.

The government this week instructed all schools in the Seoul area to close for a month but has stopped short of ordering a full lockdown. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD