South Korea Reports 109 COVID Deaths in 24 Hours, Over 1K in Serious or Critical Condition

South Korea is struggling with soaring COVID-19 cases after reporting a record-high number of deaths in 24 hours. Additionally, more than 1,000 people infected with the virus were reported as critically ill.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 109 people deaths within the past 24 hours, setting a record and bringing the total number of deaths to 5,015. According to government data, between November 28 and December 18, at least 36 people died either at home or in facilities waiting for a bed.

The South Korean government reported that as of Wednesday, COVID-19 intensive care units were at 80 percent capacity and there are 1,083 coronavirus patients who are in serious or critical condition.

Despite the Omicron variant becoming the dominant strain in other parts of the world South Korea is still grappling with Delta, which is responsible for the majority of new infections, but that could change in the near future.

In the past 24 hours, 6,919 people have tested positive for COVID-19. However, only 12 new cases are confirmed to be Omicron, bringing the total number of Omicron cases to 246, authorities said.

Officials in South Korea warned that the number of Omicron cases could overcome the number of Delta ones based on its high transmissibility.

South Korea COVID-19 Testing
South Korea is struggling with soaring COVID-19 cases after reporting a record-high number of deaths in 24 hours. Above, people wait in line to get coronavirus tests in Seoul on December 14, 2021. Jung Yeon-je/ AFP/Getty Images

Senior health official Lee Sang-won said earlier this week that it's possible Omicron would become the dominant strain in South Korea within one or two months. Jaehun Jung, a professor at Gachon University College of Medicine in South Korea, also said that "a meaningful [level] of infections caused by Omicron could occur in our country in February or March."

Alarmed by record-breaking surges of new infections and deaths, South Korea on Saturday restored its toughest distancing rules, such as a four-person cap on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes.

The surge has threatened to overwhelm hospitals and was straining the country's health care.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Wednesday that South Korea is at "a critical juncture" as the danger of its medical system reaching limits grows. He said breakthrough infections and transmissions among unvaccinated people are responsible for a rising number of critically ill patients, which he said is much higher than the government had earlier expected when it eased distancing curbs at the start of November.

Kwon said the government plans to secure thousands of new beds and establish a capacity to deal with 10,000 new cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Seoul COVID-19 Testing, South Korea
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday that more than 100 people died of COVID-19 in the latest 24-hour period in South Korea, raising the country's total number of pandemic fatalities to more than 5,000. Above, people wait in line for coronavirus testing at a makeshift testing site in Seoul on December 22, 2021. Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo