South Korea orders doctors to stop strike amid crisis

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — Health officials in South Korea ordered thousands of striking doctors to return to work as the country counted its 13th straight day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said those who refuse could have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of less than three years.

Doctors in the greater Seoul area joined physicians in other parts of the country in a three-day strike starting yesterday against government plans to boost the number of medical students.

The walkouts have forced major hospitals in Seoul to reduce working hours or delay some surgeries, according to Yonhap news agency. “The government will sternly respond to any collective action that hold people’s lives and safety hostage amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Park said.

The Health Ministry said over 2,000 medical facilities nationwide had reported their intention to close yesterday after doctors’ groups, including the Korean Medical Association and the Korean Intern Resident Association, expressed dissatisfaction over negotiations with government officials.

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk through the Myeongdong shopping district of Seoul. PHOTO: AFP

The government wants to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next decade, saying it’s critical for dealing with crises like COVID-19 and reducing healthcare gaps between the highly developed Seoul area and the rest of the country.

Doctors’ groups said the country already has enough physicians competing in a cut-throat market.

They said the government should instead use its financial resources to improve the compensation of trainees and encourage them to move to areas outside Seoul where health professionals are more needed.

South Korea’s Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reported 320 new cases of COVID-19, including 237 from the Seoul region. Health workers have struggled to stem transmissions linked to churches, schools, restaurants and door-to-door salespeople.
India has reported over 67,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s number of reported infections to 3.2 million with 1.5 million reported infections coming this month alone.

The Health Ministry yesterday also reported 1,059 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the pandemic to 59,449. India has been recording over 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on August 19.

New reported infections dropped to around 61,000 on Monday and Tuesday, but picked up again in the past 24 hours. The ministry said India’s recovery rate was now around 76 per cent with a fatality rate of 1.84 per cent. Even though the country of nearly 1.4 billion people has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, areas identified as most affected by the virus continue to remain under lockdown.

China has suspended a flight from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai for a week after five passengers on board tested positive for the coronavirus. Etihad flight EY862 was put on hold from Tuesday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said. For the 10th consecutive day, China has reported only imported cases, with another 15 added yesterday.

China currently has 347 people in treatment for COVID-19, while another 365 people are being monitored in isolation for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms. The country has reported 4,634 deaths among 84,996 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.