February 16, 2022 09:38
Daily coronavirus infections have soared by more than 30,000 overnight to surpass 90,000.
The daily tally had remained below 60,000 for almost a week until Tuesday but stood at 90,443 as of Wednesday morning.
But the government is still minded to relax lockdown rules to permit bigger gatherings and allow restaurants and coffee shops to open an hour longer until 10 p.m.
Severe cases and deaths are also on the rise, though not as drastically. The number of deaths reached 61 on Tuesday, the highest since Jan. 18, when 74 patients died. Severe cases have remained above 300.
The fatality rate for the now prevalent Omicron variant therefore reached 0.19 percent last Saturday, up from 0.15 percent two weeks earlier.
This is particularly alarming since many medical workers, soldiers, police officers and firefighters are also exposed to infection. On Tuesday, 19 out of 35 officers at a police station in Bupyeong, Incheon tested positive for coronavirus, so all duty positions had to be reassigned.
A staffer of a general hospital in Seoul said, "Our system is virtually paralyzed due to infections within the hospital." In another large hospital in Seoul, a doctor who was supposed to perform surgery was quickly replaced because he tested positive for COVID.
On Jan. 27, the government presented a plan for uninterrupted healthcare services and launched an emergency medical response in preparation for surge in COVID cases among medical workers. They can self-isolate for only three to five days instead of seven to perform services that do not require face-to-face interaction.
Eom Joong-sik of Gachon University's Gil Medical Center said, "Most big hospitals are already operating at capacity, so it's difficult to find anyone to replace infected medical staff."
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