Korea scrambles to combat third wave

SEOUL (CNA) – South Korean authorities scrambled yesterday to build shipping container hospital beds to alleviate medical facilities stretched by the latest coronavirus wave, which shows little sign of abating with 682 new cases.

The resurgence of infections has rekindled concerns about an acute shortage of hospital beds, prompting Seoul city to begin installing container beds for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The health authorities plan to step up testing by launching temporary sites at about 150 locations across the greater Seoul area.

“We’re making all-out efforts to stop the spread in the Seoul metropolitan area by mobilising all available resources,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a meeting.

“Above all, we will secure sufficient treatment centres and hospital beds for critical cases so that they can receive proper treatment in a timely manner.”

Yesterday’s 682 new infections came a day after the daily tally hit 686, the second-highest since the country’s first case was confirmed in January, even as tougher social distancing rules took effect this week, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

New cases have been persistently around 600 over the past week, driven by smaller, harder-to-trace clusters around the densely populated capital city of Seoul, whereas the early two waves were centred on a handful of groups or regions.

Containers to be used as a ward to treat people infected with the coronavirus are set up on the grounds of the Seoul Medical Centre in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP