Picture: 123RF/SAMSONOVS
Picture: 123RF/SAMSONOVS

Seoul — Dozens of elderly South Korean coronavirus patients have been transferred from nursing homes to hospitals after criticism that government policy had led to a spike in deaths among the vulnerable residents.

South Korea’s tally of infections passed 60,000 on Thursday, as 967 additional cases were reported.

At least 486 of South Korea’s 900 reported deaths were people over the age of 80. Only 40 deaths have been reported among people younger than 60.

At least 316 residents of nursing hospitals or nursing homes have died, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Thursday. When the agency reported a record 40 deaths in one day on Tuesday, 70% of them were residents of nursing homes or nursing hospitals.

“Since most of the hospitalised in the nursing homes are elderly and with underlying conditions, they are at a high risk of death when infected with Covid-19,” Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, told a news conference.

“They should be given priority to hospital beds and receive proper treatment.”

Kim Dong-hyun, president of Korean Society of Epidemiology, said the government was repeating mistakes it had made during waves of infections earlier in the year, similar to missteps in the US and Europe.

“Even if they separate the infected patients to other floors and rooms, transmission is inevitable,” he said.

At a nursing hospital in the Guro district of Seoul, at least 102 residents and 69 medical staff have been infected, while seven residents have died of the coronavirus since the first case was reported at the facility on December 15. Another 22 cases were linked to the cluster there.

By Thursday, all but one coronavirus patient at the nursing hospital had been transferred to regular hospitals, while 246 residents who were not infected were moved to other facilities, according to health officials.

Authorities have transferred all confirmed cases out of eight of the 10 nursing homes that have reported cases, health official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing. Forty confirmed coronavirus patients were still at the two remaining facilities, he said.

Yoon had previously said the government decided to treat patients at the nursing homes because it was easier to care for them by sending medical staff to the facilities.

Reuters

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