New virus cases stayed below 40 for the second day but cluster infections and silent spreads in greater Seoul area continued on Monday.
Korea reported 37 new Covid-19 cases, including 24 local infections, raising the cumulative total to 12,121 as of midnight Sunday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The nation saw no more fatalities to keep the death toll at 277. Twelve patients recovered from Covid-19 and left the medical facilities, pushing the total number of cured cases to 10,370. Korea, a country with a population of 50 million, has carried out 1,105,719 tests so far.
Expressing concerns about unflinching infections in the capital Seoul and its vicinity, the public health authorities did not rule out the possibility of resurge of new virus cases given the area's high population density and a large share of floating population. To prepare for such a case, health officials said they need to check the adequacy of medical facilities and equipment.
According to the KCDC, 1,114 Covid-19 patients are quarantined at medical institutions or state-run community treatment centers. Hospital beds to treat patients are not in shortage yet but the number of patients in the Seoul metro region reached 886, or 81.3 percent of the total -- 420 in Seoul, 303 in Gyeonggi Province, and 163 in Incheon.
As of Friday, the KCDC had secured 1,769 hospital beds at 10 infectious diseases hospitals in the Seoul metro region, and are using 778 of them with 991 others remain vacant.
“We have not experienced difficulties supplying sickbeds in the capital area,” said Yoon Tae-ho, overall coordinator at the Central Accident Control Headquarters. “We will operate the beds flexibly by increasing them in response to the number of confirmed patients.”
However, the situation can become serious if the virus spreads much faster than now in the capital area.
There are 324 beds in intensive care units of hospitals in the capital city and the surrounding area. According to the headquarters, however, hospitals reported only 52 beds at ICUs as available for hospitalizing severe Covid-19 patients,
Health officials said the rising number of older patients is another source of concern.
Minister Park of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said about 40 percent of the newly infected patients were older than 60, as the virus has spread through nursing homes and daycare centers.
Korea’s fatality rate of Covid-19 remains at 2.29 percent but soars to 25.61 percent when it comes to patients aged 80 or older.
The government will continue to apply stringent quarantine measures in the greater Seoul area until the number of new patients drops to a single digit. The key steps include expanding the designation of high-risk facilities, mandating the introduction of electronic entry and exit lists, and preemptively responding to silent spreaders in blind spots.
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