The resurgence of infections is reigniting concerns about an acute shortage of hospital beds, with 3,000 cases reported last week.
South Korean authorities were scrambling on Thursday to build temporary hospitals in shipping containers to ease medical facilities stretched by the latest wave of coronavirus, as the government warned the resurgence “was accelerating” across the board. the country.
Authorities have also increased the number of residential treatment centers and clinics fully dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients to prepare for a possible shortage of hospital beds.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 682 new cases of the virus on Thursday – most in the greater Seoul area.
Eight more coronavirus deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 564, according to the Yonhap news agency.
While new cases declined slightly from 686 on Wednesday, health officials noted that the number was still the third highest since January, when the country’s first case was reported.
More than 3,000 new infections have been identified across the country in the past week.
Of those, patients with severe symptoms rose to 172, from 149 on Wednesday.
The surge in infections has rekindled concerns over a severe shortage of hospital beds, prompting the city of Seoul to start installing container beds for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Health authorities also plan to step up testing by opening temporary sites at some 150 sites in the greater Seoul area.
“We are making every effort to stop the spread in the Seoul metropolitan area by mobilizing all available resources,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said at a meeting Thursday.
“Above all, we will ensure sufficient treatment centers and hospital beds for critical cases so that they can receive appropriate treatment in a timely manner.”
The new cases remained around 600 over the past week, due to smaller and harder-to-trace groups in the densely populated capital. The first two waves focused on a handful of groups or regions.
As viral infections continued to rise, health officials are urging people to follow improved social distancing guidelines that went into effect in the Seoul metropolitan area on Tuesday. The country’s central disease control headquarters also said it would increase the number of people tested for the virus.
In addition, health authorities have increased the number of residential treatment centers and clinics dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients to prepare for a possible shortage of hospital beds.
South Korea announced this week that it has reached deals to buy vaccines for 44 million people, nearly 90 percent of the country’s population.
“The end of a long tunnel [in the anti-virus fight] is finally visible, ”said President Moon Jae-in.
South Korea can begin vaccination in February or March 2021, when the first batch of vaccine is expected to arrive.
But Moon also warned that it was still too early to be complacent.