Lockdown fears spark panic buying in S.Korea as cases spike

SEOUL: South Korea reported a record number of coronavirus deaths yesterday as the country's biggest wave of infections since the start of the pandemic strained hospital resources and sparked panic buying in anticipation of a harsh new lockdown.

There were 22 deaths, sharply up from a previous high of 13 deaths in a single day earlier in the week, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported.

Deaths were expected to rise after infections had spiked in Seoul and surrounding areas, with another 1,014 cases reported yesterday, including a daily record of 423 in the densely populated capital city.

Tighter social distancing rules have failed to reverse the trend and the government has warned it may have to impose harsher restrictions on business activity, though it says that move would be a last resort.

Many residents of Seoul have stocked up on food and other essentials in anticipation that the city will be locked down.

In Japan, Tokyo is also in dire straits. Hospitals there are struggling to provide routine care because of a sharp spike in cases, officials warned yesterday as new infections hit another record high.

The city raised its alert level for availability of medical services to the top of a four-tier warning system for the first time since it was introduced.

Tokyo logged 822 new cases yesterday - breaking its record for the second day running and marking a jump from around 600 per day in recent weeks. - REUTERS, AFP