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South Korea running out of hospital beds in COVID-19 resurgence

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SEOUL: South Korea reported more than 300 infections of the new coronavirus on Saturday (Aug 29), the 16th day of three-digit rises, fanning concerns about a worsening shortage of sickbeds amid a resurgence of COVID-19.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) posted 308 new cases as of midnight Friday, bringing the total infections to 19,400, including 321 deaths from COVID-19.

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After having largely curbed the first large outbreak outside China early this year, South Korea is suffering a setback this month after a church cluster spread to a political rally in Seoul, attended by tens of thousands from across the country.

READ: South Korea traces church members, confines troops to bases as COVID-19 spreads

With the surge in the disease, hospitals in greater Seoul had only 4.5 per cent of their beds available for critical cases as of Friday, down from 22 per cent a week earlier. Some 24 per cent of beds for all COVID-19 patients were left, compared with 37 per cent last week.

"Only about 15 beds are immediately available in the greater Seoul area for patients in critical condition as there were numerous patients who were in a serious condition and needed to be hospitalised," said Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy at the health ministry.

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"But we should have a little more room shortly because more people are being released," he told a news briefing.

READ: South Korean doctors strike over health plans as new COVID-19 cases climb

The government took the unprecedented step on Friday of restricting eateries in the capital area, as a multitude of outbreaks continued to erupt from churches, offices, nursing homes and medical facilities, even after social-distancing rules were tightened.

For a week starting on Sunday, onsite dining at restaurants, pubs and bakeries in the Seoul area will be banned after 9pm, while coffee shops, some of which have been identified as hotspots, are restricted to takeout and delivery.

Churches, nightclubs, gyms and most schools in the area are already closed, and masks are mandatory in public places.

READ: South Korea stops short of toughest COVID-19 measures despite case rise

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