- South Korea vows to double its critical-care hospital beds as COVID-19 resurgence strains system.
- Quebec City karaoke night outbreak now linked to 10 secondary cases, including three in schools.
- Czech Republic reports its highest daily number of coronavirus cases.
- India reports record daily jump of 83,883 coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 3.85 million.
- Australian woman arrested for advocating against lockdown.
South Korea, scrambling to control a second wave of COVID-19, vowed on Thursday to double its critical-care hospital beds amid a severe shortage, highlighting the strain of the pandemic on even well-equipped countries.
The spike in serious cases, as older people make up an increasing proportion of patients amid a broader resurgence, marks a sharp turn for a country that was seen as successful in crushing one of the early outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside China.
Fewer than 10 intensive-care beds were available in the greater Seoul area, a metropolis of 26 million people, as of Tuesday, health authorities said. Officials do not give daily numbers, which can fluctuate widely.
The Health Ministry said it will spend 100 billion won ($110 million Cdn) to acquire 500 beds for severely ill patients nationwide by the middle of next year, aiming to secure at least 110 by the end of the month.
“We are also exerting our full efforts to enable stable treatment for the patients,” the ministry’s director-general for public health policy, Yoon Tae-ho, told a news briefing.
South Korea has 511 critical-care beds, mostly at public hospitals in Seoul and surrounding regions, but many of those are being used by less serious cases or patients suffering from other ailments.
As of Thursday, 154 COVID-19 patients were in serious or critical condition, up from 123 a day before. The country had just 12 such cases before the second wave began to intensify two weeks ago, stemming from an outbreak among members of a church who attended a political rally.
South Korea was caught unprepared for the resurgence despite its relatively successful response to the initial epidemic, said Choi Jae-wook, a senior member of the Korean Medical Association.
“The government appears to have grown complacent after the daily rate of infections fell to the low double digits,” said Choi, who teaches preventive medicine at Korea University. “They didn’t take proper steps to address bed shortages even after they struggled with it early this year.”
The crisis is growing more acute, as more than 40 per cent of the country’s new coronavirus victims are 60 or older, up from 20 per cent a month ago, health authorities said.
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South Korea has among the most hospital beds per person among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, while it is near the OECD average for intensive-care beds.
The country has been gripped in recent weeks by ongoing strikes by thousands of doctors and medical students over government health-care reform plans, although officials said this has had little effect on the shortage of critical-care beds, because it was idling few beds and military medics and volunteer nurses were staffing the facilities.
South Korea’s daily reported infections dropped below 200 for the first time in more than two weeks on Thursday, even as more serious cases continued to rise. The country has reported a total of 20,644 cases with 329 COVID-19 deaths.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 7:45 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 129,923 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 115,050 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,173.
In Quebec, a karaoke night at a bar has been linked to a growing number of cases of COVID-19, including several at local schools, and there are reports the bar’s customers flouted isolation orders while waiting for their test results.
Public health officials in Quebec City said Wednesday they have traced 10 secondary cases of COVID-19 back to Bar Kirouac, on top of the original 40 linked to a karaoke night there on Aug. 23.
“We’re pretty sure that three positive cases, namely children, got the virus from somebody who was celebrating something at this bar,” said Dr. Jacques Girard, who heads the Quebec City public health authority.
WATCH | Quebec City COVID-19 outbreak linked to karaoke night:
There are six schools in the Quebec City region that have reported cases of COVID-19, three of which are connected to Bar Kirouac, he said.
The owners of La Gamelle, another Quebec City bar that offers karaoke nights, said they have temporarily closed their establishment after learning they served two customers from Bar Kirouac who should have been in self-isolation on Saturday and Sunday.
Those two customers visited La Gamelle after learning they may have been infected at Bar Kirouac and while they were waiting for their test results — which ultimately came back positive.
The developments come as public health authorities in Quebec City deal with a recent spike in cases of COVID-19. On Wednesday, Quebec’s health ministry reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 in Quebec City — down from Tuesday’s increase of 31, but still considerably higher than the relative trickle of new cases over the past two months.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 26 million. More than 863,000 people have died while 17.3 million have recovered.
The Czech Republic reported 650 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its highest number for a single day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest cases, recorded by the health ministry over the previous 24 hours, took the overall number of cases reported since March to 25,773 in the country of 10.7 million.
The Czech Republic has registered 425 deaths associated with COVID-19, a lower toll than many of its fellow European Union member states, but the number of new infections has spiked in recent days. On five days since Aug. 26, there have been more new cases than on any day during the first wave of the pandemic.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech started isolating at home on Wednesday after the chief public health officer, Jarmila Razova, tested positive for the coronavirus. The minister tested negative.
India reported another record daily jump of 83,883 coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking its tally to 3.85 million, just 100,000 behind Brazil, the world’s second-most-affected nation, health ministry data showed.
Asia’s worst-hit country has been posting the world’s largest daily caseload every day for almost a month, although deaths remain relatively low. The ministry said 1,043 people died from COVID-19, taking the toll to 67,376.
In Australia, a pregnant woman said Thursday she didn’t know she had broken any law when she was handcuffed by police in front of her children in her home and led away in her pajamas for allegedly inciting activists to demonstrate against pandemic lockdown.
Zoe Buhler’s partner helped her livestream the arrest on Wednesday at her home where she lives with two children, aged three and four, in the Victoria state city of Ballarat. The video has been viewed millions of times.
The 28-year-old has since been charged with using social media platforms to incite others to break pandemic restrictions by attending weekend rallies.
Victoria is Australia’s COVID-19 hot spot and its capital, Melbourne, has been under lockdown restrictions unprecedented in Australia since early August. The state on Thursday reported 113 new infections and 15 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.