As the novel coronavirus tears through South Korea’s hot zones, accelerated by the cult members who resisted getting tested after the first few cases emerged, scenes at some of the advanced capitalist economy’s hospitals are beginning to resemble the crowded hallways and demoralizing refusals that were hallmarks of the “bad old days” of mid-January through mid-February, when the novel coronavirus outbreak was at its most severe in Wuhan.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that hospitals in SK’s hardest-hit areas have been scrambling to accommodate a surge in patients as thousands worried about having the virus crowd into hospitals and beg to be tested.
In Daegu alone, 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary facilities retrofitted to treat the massive influx of patients, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said. A 100-bed military hospital is being outfitted with 200 additional beds.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday declared “war” on the virus, apologized for shortages of face masks and promised more support for the worst-hit areas. His office has cancelled a trip to the UAE, which has closed schools for four weeks and cancelled large events to contain the virus as the outbreak in Iran rages out of control. 27 cases have been confirmed in the tiny principality. He also cancelled plans to Egypt (which reported the first cases in Africa) and Turkey (which is in the middle of a nasty spat with Russia).
At least 92 countries have imposed some form of entry restrictions on arrivals from South Korea, including, as VP Pence said earlier, the US.
We’re not certain what the South Korean’s are planning next, but the country’s prime minister highlighted a planned $10 billion stimulus package.
“We need special measures in times of emergency,” South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting, referring to extra medical resources for hotspots and economic measures including a $9.8 billion stimulus.
“In order to overcome COVID-19 as quickly as possible and minimize the impact on the economy, it is necessary to proactively inject all available resources.”
To be sure, if there’s one thing South Korea is getting right, it’s the testing: the country has ramped up testing capacity to 10,000 tests a day.