The South Korean health minister has declared a “critical situation” as the country scrambles to build additional hospital capacity to cope with the nation’s third wave of Covid-19.
Speaking on Thursday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo announced that South Korea’s medical response to the Covid-19 pandemic might reach its limit soon, and said “the situation is in jeopardy.”
We’re in a critical situation where our anti-virus efforts and medical system’s capacity could reach their limits before long.
The minister vowed to mobilize all available resources to slow the spread of the disease and prioritize the creation of more healthcare capacity.
“Above all, we will secure sufficient treatment centers and hospital beds for critical cases so that they can receive proper treatment in a timely manner,” he added.
Park Yoo-mi, a quarantine officer at the Seoul city government, told reporters that only around three percent of hospital beds were available for severe cases, and 17 percent for all patients.
The health authorities are responding to this acute shortage by building emergency hospital capacity out of shipping containers and ramping up testing capabilities.
Images of the building effort have emerged online.
via @PerilofAfrica #News S Korea building container hospital beds as COVID cases rebound: Resurgence of infections rekindles concerns about a shortage of hospital beds. https://t.co/Q1JhIJTyoo pic.twitter.com/JsSgJt0wZE
— Martha Leah Nangalama (@mlnangalama) December 10, 2020
서울의료원에 설치되는 임시 병상 컨테이너라는데 미국 유럽 코로나 뉴스에서나 나왔던 것을 보니 사태의 심각성이 확 느껴진다. pic.twitter.com/mjCaACvBn1
— 보부상 (@uklondon21) December 7, 2020
Infection rates in the capital, Seoul, have become particularly concerning. Park noted “the number of confirmed cases in the metropolitan area is the highest every day, and more than 3,000 new cases have occurred in the past week.”
South Korea registered 682 new Covid infections and 8 new deaths on Thursday. The figures are significantly below counterparts in the West, but are close to South Korea’s peak daily infection numbers, which were recorded in March.
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