South Korea's hospitals must dedicate more beds and resources for the treatment of coronavirus patients, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday, as serious infections hovered near record highs.
As the medical system is strained by a surge in new daily infections and serious cases, authorities restored tougher social distancing rules this week, just 1-1/2 months after having relaxed them in a policy of 'living with Covid-19'.
"Over the past year, we have prepared for an increase in patients by nearly doubling the number of coronavirus treatment beds and expanding home treatment, but it was not enough," Moon's spokesperson, Park Kyung-mee, quoted him as saying.
Over the weekend, the occupancy rate of beds in intensive care for Covid-19 patients stood at nearly 88% in Seoul, and more than 79% for the country as a whole, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
That figure is above the threshold of 75% that health authorities had said would trigger emergency measures.
In his comments to aides at a meeting, Moon urged public hospitals, particularly in the hard-hit Seoul region, to set aside more resources for serious cases and asked private hospitals and medical workers to expand treatment capability.
More doctors and other personnel would be assigned to coronavirus treatment, he added.
The KDCA reported 5,318 infections and 54 deaths by midnight on Sunday, for a total of 570,414 cases and 4,776 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The tally of serious cases stood at 997, just off Sunday's all-time high of 1,025.