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(LEAD) S. Korea struggles to secure more hospital beds amid spiking virus cases

All News 16:12 August 18, 2020

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's health authorities said Tuesday they will secure more hospital beds in the wider Seoul area amid the resurgence of novel coronavirus infections.

The country added 246 more COVID-19 cases, including 235 local infections, raising the country's total caseload to 15,761, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The country added nearly 1,000 cases over the past five days.

This photo, taken Aug. 12, 2020, shows a community treatment center in the southern city of Gwangju.

This photo, taken Aug. 12, 2020, shows a community treatment center in the southern city of Gwangju.

The authorities said medical facilities in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province will prepare an additional 500 beds and another combined 1,300 in the Chungcheong and Gangwon Provinces.

As of late Monday, 660 out of 1,479 beds in general hospitals in the greater Seoul area were not occupied, the KCDC said, while 85 out 339 hospital rooms for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms were empty.

In Seoul, the bed utilization rate for COVID-19 patients in Seoul came to 74.9 percent, according to the city government. Health authorities said a rate over 70 percent is a burden for hospitals.

The authorities also said they will newly open six community treatment centers that can house around 2,000 virus patients in the Seoul metropolitan area. The centers are dedicated to the care of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms

"The Seoul metropolitan government will first open the center at the Taeneung National Training Center in Seoul (on Wednesday) and then another two. The provincial government of Gyeonggi will open another three," Lee Chang-jun, a health ministry official, said.

Currently, the government operates two centers each in Ansan, located just south of Seoul, and Cheonan, south of Seoul, with a combined 440 rooms. Another smaller facility is located in central Seoul.

The measure comes after the country suffered a shortage in hospital beds designated to treat coronavirus in the southeastern city of Daegu, once the epicenter of the outbreak here, in March.

The shortage prompted the authorities to open community treatment centers across the country.

khj@yna.co.kr
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