South Korean health officials Wednesday day reported 87 new cases of the novel coronavirus at five nursing facilities in Daegu, including Hansarang nursing hospital. A 17-year-old, who had symptoms of pneumonia, died on Wednesday. If it is confirmed that the boy died from COVID-19, he will become the first teenager to die from the disease in Korea. Furthermore, seven public officials and Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip went into self-quarantine after it was found that they were in a meeting with the president of the Bundang Jesaeng Hospital, who had been tested positive for COVID-19. If new cases of COVID-19 are reported among them, it will send a shock wave across the country as they contacted many relevant authorities, including the prime minister and the health and welfare minister as well as lawmakers, and hospital heads.
New cases of COVID-19 were on the decline in South Korea due to aggressive testing and self-quarantine measure but the country is now on edge again. There are rising concerns that the new confirmed cases in the country could go up to triple-digits again after remaining in double-digit numbers for three days in a row. The Daegu Metropolitan Government found additional cluster infections Wednesday while inspecting all 397 nursing homes and social welfare facilities in the city. Since only 30 percent of the inspection has been completed as of Wednesday, there is a possibility of more confirmed cases as the inspection continues. New clusters of infections have been found shortly after the city of Daegu launched inspection on all high-risk facilities following the case of Shincheonji cult.
At the Wednesday briefing, the government said it inspected 10 percent of all nursing homes across the country and found no additional COVID-19 patients in other regions excluding Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province. But given that new clusters were found in Daegu after inspecting 30 percent of high-risk facilities, all nursing facilities across the country should be inspected without exceptions. Senior citizens with underlying diseases in nursing facilities have a high risk of the coronavirus infection and high mortality risks once infected. Local governments should inspect all 1,470 nursing hospitals across the country in order to identify people infected with the virus and give them proper treatment.
The coronavirus outbreak in the country is showing signs of slowing but the country is still seeing sporadic clusters, whose source of infection is hard to identify. Cluster infections have been reported in churches and PC cafes in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area and small-scale infections were reported in coronavirus-free regions including Gangwon Province, North Jeolla Province, and South Gyeongsang Province. If these small-scale infections are not stopped, they could always bloom into a full-scale public health crisis. Health authorities should strengthen preventive measures at multi-use facilities and medical institutions and the public, for its part, should take preventive measures against the virus.
It should be also noted that the number of COVID-19 patients entering the country from Europe is on the rise. Even though the South Korean government is expanding the special entry procedures for all arrivals starting from Thursday, it should not let its guard down given that some people were later confirmed to have coronavirus did not show symptoms when entering the country. In order to contain the spread of the virus, we should refrain from taking non-essential travels and put ourselves in self-quarantine for two weeks after returning home from abroad.