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(LEAD) PM asks for private hospitals' cooperation to tackle bed shortage in capital region

All News 16:57 December 10, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5-6)

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Thursday asked privately held hospitals to cooperate with authorities in dealing with a shortage of hospital beds in the greater Seoul area amid a sharp surge of new virus cases in the region.

"The number of immediately available hospital beds for intensive-care patients in the capital region is in the single digits," Chung said during a meeting with COVID-19 response officials for the capital region encompassing Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun (L) presides over a meeting of COVID-19 response officials for the capital region encompassing Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province at Seoul City Hall on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

At the meeting held at Seoul City Hall, Chung underscored the limitations in properly treating critical patients only through public medical facilities. "With earnestness, the government requests proactive cooperation from private hospitals," he said.

Chung's remarks came as the Seoul city government announced Wednesday that it will utilize shipping containers to cope with a hospital bed shortage caused by a recent surge in COVID-19 infections in the capital area.

As of Wednesday, a total of 506 residents of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province were waiting at home despite having tested positive for COVID-19 because they were not assigned a bed at hospitals or residential treatment centers for mild coronavirus cases.

Some of them, including those who want to enter residential treatment centers in their neighborhoods, have been waiting at home for longer than two days, officials said, noting authorities are endeavoring to ensure that the length of home standby does not exceed two days.

The prime minister also ordered state health authorities to ensure the enhancement of virus tracing capabilities and the diversification of testing methods of local governments.

Chung also said he will personally oversee the government's coronavirus vaccine administration program so that the public can be vaccinated safely and use related treatments without concerns.

The installation of shipping container medical rooms is under way at Seoul Medical Center in eastern Seoul on Dec. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)


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