|Seoul Grand Park, one of the biggest in the Seoul metropolitan area, is crowded with people, Sunday, on the first weekend after the government lowered social distancing guidelines from Level 2 to Level 1, Oct. 12. But concerns still remain as sporadic COVID-19 infection clusters have continued to be reported across the country. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
The health authorities are struggling to cope with mass COVID-19 cases at hospitals, mindful of concerns that infections at medical institutions where there are many elderly inpatients and those with underlying conditions can lead to an increase in the number of critically ill patients and more loss of life.
As sporadic infection clusters have continued to be reported across the country, the nation added 91 cases including 71 locally transmitted cases for Saturday, raising the total caseload to 25,199, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Sunday.
The city government of Gwangju in Gyeonggi Province said that 51 people including inpatients and nurses at a rehabilitation hospital have tested positive over three days since a caregiver working at the hospital was confirmed to have COVID-19 Friday.
City authorities put two wards at the hospital, in which the caregiver worked, under isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and are carrying out testing on inpatients and employees.
The authorities are also conducting tests on employees and inpatients at a nearby geriatric hospital.
"The geriatric hospital employees have visited the rehabilitation hospital regularly, thus we are carrying out testing on 400 employees and inpatients of the hospital as well," an official from the Gwangju public health center said. "We are bracing for the possibility of additional patients emerging."
The official added that an epidemiological investigation is underway to find out the infection route of the caregiver and people who have come into contact with her.
|Health officials wearing protective suits work at a rehabilitation hospital in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday, as more than 50 COVID-19 patients have been reported there. / Yonhap|
Infections at the rehabilitation hospital followed an outbreak at a geriatric hospital in Busan.
The Busan hospital reported 14 more virus patients, raising the number of cases tracked to the hospital to 73.
As a precaution against further infections, the Busan Metropolitan Government will carry out virus testing at all geriatric hospitals in the city, beginning Monday.
The health authorities are also planning to begin virus testing on about 160,000 inpatients and employees at geriatric and psychiatric hospitals in Seoul and its surrounding areas this week.
Continuous infections clusters are raising concerns as the government lowered social distancing guidelines to their lowest ― Level 1 ― Oct. 12, based on the belief that the country's coronavirus situation had been showing signs of a slowdown.
In line with the eased social distancing rules, kindergarteners and students at elementary, middle and high schools will take in-person classes more often starting Monday, as attendance cap restrictions in schools have been eased to two-thirds for all schools from one-third in kindergartens, elementary and middle schools, and two-thirds in high schools.
The government adopted the three-tier social distancing system June 28.