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(2nd LD) More mass infections may come from hospitals, medical facilities

All News 20:47 February 26, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more information in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- More hospitals across the country started cohort isolation on Wednesday on fears that the country will see additional mass infections of the new coronavirus at such facilities.

The country reported an additional 284 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the day, bringing the total to 1,261 with 12 deaths.

A hospital in the southeastern country of Cheongdo has been under cohort isolation since Saturday, and at least seven of the country's 12 deaths from the novel coronavirus are linked to the facility.

Cohort isolation is the separating of a group of patients with the same infectious disease from others. The method has been proven to be effective in preventing the further spread of disease within medical facilities.

Medical workers prepare to transport a COVID-19 patient from Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, which has so far reported 112 infections among patients and medical workers, on Feb. 24, 2020. (Yonhap)

A total of 114 people, including 10 medical workers, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, just south of Daegu, in North Gyeongsang Province, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The health authorities said 25 patients were removed from Daenam Hospital, following concerns that classifying the patients depending on the severity of the disease and providing appropriate care were not carried out well.

Also, a nursing hospital located in the southern port city of Busan was put under cohort isolation earlier in the day after a member of staff at the facility was found to be infected, the KCDC said. No patient has yet tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The 64-year-old caregiver had worked in an intensive-care unit at Asiad Hospital, where most patients are seniors with chronic diseases.

Health authorities said nearly one third of the 193 hospitalized patients at the facility need intensive care, with most of them to be transferred to a nearby hospital to receive intensive treatment.

Another hospital in Changwon, about 400 kilometers south of Seoul, was shuttered on Wednesday for up to 14 days after one more nurse tested positive for the virus.

Three medical staff, including one doctor, were previously confirmed to have the novel virus and went into self-isolation.

A hospital in Daejeon, about 160 kilometers south of Seoul, was also put under cohort isolation after a nurse there tested postive for COVID-19.

Also, at least 21 cases were reported at a small facility that houses people with disabilities in Chilgok, 280 kilometers south of Seoul and just north of Daegu.

The country reported its first cluster of infections centered around a church in Daegu. About 80 percent of all confirmed cases came from two clusters of infections -- at a branch of the Shincheonji Church in Daegu and at Daenam Hospital.

Partly to prevent additional cluster infections, the government has raised its alert to the highest level and is also advising people to avoid crowds whenever possible.

Hospital workers carry out disinfection work at a nursing facility in the southern port city of Busan on Feb. 26, 2020. (Yonhap)

Related to the rapid spread of COVID-19, and the growing pressure experienced by local hospitals, some in the medical community have started to call for a more practical way of caring for patients based on their physical condition and health.

In a press conference held earlier in the day, Oh Myoung-don, head of the country's central clinical committee for emerging disease control, said that now may be the time to consider placing infected people, who are only mildly affected, on home confinement, where they can be given necessary medication, instead of being automatically transported to hospitals.

"Data from China shows that 81 percent of patients are mildly infected, with 13.8 percent suffering from pneumonia and 4.7 percent tallied as being in critical condition, with the fatalities mostly being limited to seriously sick people," the Seoul National University (SNU) doctor said.

This view was echoed by Bang Ji-hwan, a doctor at SNU's Boramae Hospital in Seoul, who said people who don't display significant symptoms could be treated at home, thereby freeing up limited medical resources for more serious cases.

khj@yna.co.kr
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