Return to Normal Faces Major Setback

  • By Bae Jun-yong

    November 22, 2021 09:07

    A surge in coronavirus infections in the Seoul metropolitan area has filled up more than 80 percent of designated ICU beds while over 800 patients are waiting for hospital beds to become available. Serious cases are occurring mostly among the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

    Out of 687 beds in the capital region's ICUs, 560 or 81.5 percent were filled on Sunday, threatening overload of the medical system and jeopardizing the country's phased return to normal.

    The government was taken aback by the extent of the surge. An average 500 COVID patients per day are being treated for serious symptoms in the Seoul metropolitan area, surpassing 500 for the first time on Nov. 17.

    But the government said it is too soon to implement a circuit-breaker lockdown.

    Isolation wards are set up in a hospital in Seoul on Sunday. /Newsis

    Some patients with milder symptoms are being taken to hospitals outside the capital region to free up beds.

    The government has also begun designating additional hospitals in the capital area to treat patients. "We will use all beds in hospitals outside the capital that are less than an hour away if the patients' condition allows it," Minister of Health and Welfare Kwon Deok-chul told reporters last Friday. Some doctors warned that might endanger the patients.

    On Monday morning, the daily tally of new infections stood at 2,827 with 515 severe cases, bringing to the cumulative total to 418,252 so far. Some 24 patients died Sunday, rising the total death toll to 3,298.

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