Since the phased return to normal started off on Nov. 1 in South Korea, the medical system has been put under pressure to deal with a sudden rise in the number of patients severely infected with COVID-19 while running out of hospital beds. With the growing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, a “quarantine pass” system will be introduced to limit access of those unvaccinated to day care centers and nurseries.
As of 5 p.m. on Thursday, Seoul had 75.4 percent of hospital beds dedicated to severe COVID-19 patients occupied according to the quarantine authorities, which already exceeded the 75 percent operating rate of severe hospital beds, a threshold of the government to put its return to normal on hold and impose a circuit breaker. Incheon and Gyeonggi Province had around seven out of 10 hospital beds for severe conditions running –72.2 percent and -70.3 percent, respectively.
The government issued another administrative order on Friday in a week after the one announced last Friday to order seven medical centers equipped with more than 700 beds in the capital area to add 52 beds exclusive to severe and critical patients. “We consider offering incentives to medical centers if they reduce the number of days in hospitalization to release patients earlier,” said Lee Ki-il, the division chief at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters.
The crunch of hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients has resulted from a sudden increase in critical conditions. As of Friday, the number of severe and critical COVID-19 patients recorded 475 – another new record high for three days running while 2,368 people were newly confirmed, slightly down from the previous day’s record of 2,520.
The government considers bringing back a set of strong quarantine regulation. In one of the first efforts to do so, it plans to impose a quarantine pass policy at daycare centers and nurseries. Added to this, it intends to make sure that municipalities impose a quarantine pass at facilities not subject to the quarantine pass system such as cafes and restaurants if they repeatedly violate quarantine regulations.
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