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Health experts urge plan for older, critically ill COVID-19 patients

All News 16:23 December 10, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's infectious disease experts said Thursday that the country's antivirus fight is facing its biggest challenge, urging authorities to come up with thorough measures for older and critically ill patients.

The country reported 682 new virus cases on Thursday, approaching 700 for the second straight day, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Infectious diseases experts participate in a debate held by the country's largest doctors' association, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), on Dec. 10, 2020, to discuss quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Yonhap)

"The latest infectious trend is the worst as the greater Seoul area is at the most danger," said Uhm Joong-shik, a doctor at Gachon University Gil Medical Center, during a forum. "The most problematic thing is that we currently do not have a plan for COVID-19 patients in critical condition."

Citing the fact that about 10 percent of COVID-19 patients aged 60 or older become critically ill, Uhm noted the importance of securing beds and proper treatment.

Concerns have continued to mount over a possible shortage of hospital beds for novel coronavirus patients in critical condition who require oxygen treatment, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

The number of seriously or critically ill COVID-19 patients came to 172 as of midnight, more than double the number nearly two weeks earlier, the KDCA said.

The Seoul city government announced that only three out of 62 hospital beds for critically ill patients in the city are currently available.

Uhm further warned that the fatality rate for COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older has recently spiked to a whopping 16.75 percent, compared with an average of 1.41 percent.

"The death toll is expected to spike after this weekend," Uhm said.

The experts were also divided on potential false negative results with antigen tests, with some saying reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are the most effective tool.

The country currently uses PCR as a standard test for the COVID-19 virus that works by finding the virus's genetic information, or RNA, in a sample taken from a patient.

However, other experts warned that the PCR test is so sensitive that it can still pick up parts of the small amount of RNA from a cell even after a person has recovered from COVID-19.

khj@yna.co.kr
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