The South Korean government announced its special disease control measures, which stated that all COVID-19 patients will stay at home and be only admitted to a hospital when necessary. Home care will be the basic rule and only those who stay in the housing environment vulnerable for infection or young children, disabled people, and those aged over 70 who require extra care will be admitted to a hospital.
The plan is to provide a home care kit, which includes an oxygen saturation measuring instrument and fever reducers, to those tested positive and conduct minimum of two non-face-to-face examinations. Only the patients with serious symptoms will be transferred to a medical institution. However, some are expressing distrust in home care. A patient under home care passed away on his way to a hospital in October and the number of deaths in an emergency room waiting for a patient bed is gradually increasing.
Home care carries several risk factors. Confusion is expected as the criteria of hospital admission are not clear, even though the government says it will be decided based on symptoms and underlying conditions. Not only infections among family members but also within an apartment or community may rise. Patients under home care will have to leave their homes to get tests or examinations in short-term or outpatient clinics and the risk of infection through medical waste cannot be excluded. The home care system is likely to produce more patients with serious symptoms as early care is not provided. Yet, the medical response system is reaching the limit with the occupation rates of sickbeds for people with serious symptoms being 91 percent in Seoul and 95 percent in Chungcheong, to which patients from Seoul and nearby regions have been transferred, as of Tuesday. Medical professionals even say that beds for critical patients only become available when somebody passes away.
The number of critical COVID-19 patients in South Korea reached the highest level ever, with 661 people as of Tuesday. A patient under 10 died for the first time and three teenage patients are having critical symptoms. As a new variant called Omicron is spreading in 17 countries, the number of critical patients will only increase if timely medical care is not provided, causing a domino effect in the medical system collapse. Measures to prevent the increase of critical patients, such as vaccine pass for teenagers and limiting the number of people allowed for private gatherings, which were missing in the special disease control guidelines, should be put forward.