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Detention centers, nursing homes become COVID-19 hell  

Detention centers, nursing homes become COVID-19 hell  

Posted December. 30, 2020 07:31,   

Updated December. 30, 2020 07:31


New COVID-19 cases stood at 1,046 on Tuesday, which is an increase to above 1,000 threshold in three days. South Korea saw a record on the day since the pandemic began: the death toll reached 40, and 330 patients were in a serious condition and needed an oxygen respirator. The rapid increase is attributed to the mass infection at the Seoul Dongbu Detention Center and nursing facilities.  

The Seoul Dongbu Detention Center had 757 patients in total in a month after the first patient was confirmed, including 233 cases newly confirmed on Tuesday. It is the largest infection crisis occurred at a facility that is directly managed by the government. Against this backdrop, the first case of death was found among the infected prisoners on Tuesday. Living facilities for large groups such as detention centers are vulnerable to infection, and the detention center at issue is an apartment type building where all activities happen indoors, which warrants special management. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice did not provide masks to prisoners until the first case was confirmed. It started testing inmates after three days passed when 15 additional cases were confirmed on Dec.15, and transferred 345 patients to a correctional facility in Cheongsong, North Gyeongsang Province after as many as 30 percent of the inmates were infected and cried out that they were in COVID-19 hell.  

The situation of nursing facilities for senior citizens is even worse. Cohort quarantine is the measure to take when there is mass infection occurs at a nursing facility, and patients in a serious condition should be transferred to a designated hospital for treatment. But more than 40 patients died without even having a chance to see their family for the last time while waiting to be transferred due to the sharp rise in the number of patients and lack of hospital beds. When there is no medical staff experienced with COVID-19 treatment and not enough respirators, cohort isolation is nothing short of neglecting patients. Some pointed out that the health authorities should prepare for mass infection at nursing facilities when the death toll was high at the Cheongdo Daenam Hospital in North Gyeongsang Province during the first large-scale outbreak in February.  

The third outbreak combined with the new strain of coronavirus from overseas could develop the situation into an uncontrollable state. Correctional facilities and nursing homes are high-risk facilities, but the damage can be minimized through intensive management as they are single entities. They can make the place less crowded by securing additional space, isolating patients by conducting tests every day, recruiting more medical and nursing staff and adding hospital beds so that critical patients could be treated in time. Making sure that no one is left out in crises such as infectious diseases is a raison d'être of a nation.