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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 22)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:13 June 22, 2020

Prolonged battle
Reorganize health system to counter possible mass infection

The small infection clusters in the Seoul and Daejeon metropolitan areas are rising, signaling a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. The infection regions and trajectories are diversifying and asymptomatic patients are increasing, suggesting that COVID-19 is a on a prolonged path.

It's time for the health authorities to reorganize the healthcare system so hospitals and other medical facilities have sufficient bed space to accommodate gravely ill patients as well as those doing relatively better, and to protect frontline medical workers. It is as the National Medical Center identified Sunday ― COVID-19 is different from previous infectious diseases and it will be here for the long term.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the number of Saturday's daily infected patients stood at 48. Of those, 40 were domestic infections and eight from overseas. Authorities are in particular watching the outbreak in Daejeon, spread by door-to-door sales companies.

The recent daily infections are hovering perilously around 50, the daily standard set for South Korea's relaxing social distancing. Also the age group of those infected has also gone up. The portion of those 50 or older constituted 55 percent in the second week of this month over the 12 percent in the second week of May.

These developments are heightening the need to effectively reallocate our medical resources including beds. As of now, of the 1,769 beds assigned for infectious disease patients, 959 currently remain empty. The National Medical Center's suggestion Sunday that the authorities relax the current criteria determining when patients can be released should be considered. When the coronavirus hit the southwestern city of Daegu massively in spring, we witnessed tragic cases where ill patients died while waiting for beds. We do not want a repeat of such calamities.

Koreans and businesses have enjoyed relative freedom since the country eased from strict social distancing into "everyday quarantine" on May 6. In order to continue on track, health authorities, businesses and the public should treat the recommended infection prevention guidelines as mandatory. While big businesses and communities may be better equipped in infection prevention measures and quarantine rules, smaller businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops and gyms should review their current measures and inquire whether they are sufficient for the days ahead.

Each and every member of the public should keep up hygiene vigilance and refrain from large gatherings as best as they can. It's time to remind ourselves again to keep alert and non-complacent against the virus.

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