South Korea reported 1,062 cases on Friday, its third day in a row with more than 1,000, as authorities in Seoul warned that hospital beds are in short supply.
Seoul said a 60-something-year-old COVID-19 patient died at his home Tuesday after authorities could not find him a bed for days. City officials said "explosive growth" in patients this month has resulted in "an overload for the administrative and medical systems."
Figures released Friday by Korea's Disease Control and Prevention Agency bring the total nationwide cases to 47,515.
The death toll rose to 645 after 11 other people died overnight. Among the 12,888 active patients, at least 246 were in serious or critical condition, the highest number since the pandemic emergeny.
Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, said there were only 49 intensive care beds left for COVID patients in the entire country, just four of them in the capital. He said authorities plan to guarantee about 170 additional beds in intensive care units by early January by designating more hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
Health authorities are also expanding a massive testing program to find and isolate carriers more quickly. Son said the country tested more than 80,000 people on Thursday and planned to test employees and residents of long-term care facilities every one to two weeks.
South Korea seeks to obtain more than 84 million doses of vaccines for the coronavirus. That would be enough to cover 44 million people in a population of 51 million.
Yang Dong-gyo, a senior official with the disease prevention agency, said they hope to vaccinate between 60% and 70% of the population by November next year, before the start of the new flu season.
The viral resurgence has increased pressure on the government to raise social distancing restrictions to their highest level. It has resisted due to fears of its effect on the economy.