World

S. Korea boosts testing as Covid surge threatens ‘medical collapse’

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in called yesterday for expanded coronavirus testing and more thorough tracing as the country struggles to control its latest and largest wave of infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 615 new cases as of Sunday, capping a month of triple-digit daily increases that have led to 8,311 confirmed patients in quarantine, the most ever.

The surge in cases has delivered a blow to South Korea's vaunted pandemic-fighting system, which successfully used invasive tracing, testing, and quarantine to avoid lockdowns, blunt previous waves, and keep infections below 50 a day for much of the summer.

Mr Moon ordered the government to mobilise every available resource to track infections, and expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service, presidential Blue House spokesman Chung Man-ho told a briefing.

Mr Moon said testing sites should operate longer hours to allow people working to get tested at their convenience and more drive-through testing facilities should be set up.

KDCA deputy director Na Seong-woong predicted daily cases would hover between 550 and 750 for this week, possibly spiking to as many as 900 each day next week.

"This crisis is the most critical yet," he said, warning that the outbreak could lead to a "medical collapse" if the numbers are not contained.

The government plans to make an announcement on Covid-19 vaccine deals today as part of efforts to secure a supply for 60 per cent of its population this year.

Meanwhile, support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet tumbled nearly 13 points due to dissatisfaction with the government's response to a resurgence in the coronavirus, a weekend Kyodo News survey showed.

Support for Mr Suga's Cabinet dropped to 50.3 per cent from 63 per cent a month earlier, with the disapproval rating rising to 32.8 per cent from 19.2 per cent, the survey showed.

About 48 per cent of respondents want the government to temporarily halt its Go To Travel subsidy campaign due to concerns that the tourism programme was increasing the spread of the virus, while a separate Yomiuri newspaper survey showed 57 per cent want the campaign suspended.

Some medical groups and experts said the travel campaign has fuelled a third wave of virus cases. But Mr Suga has defended the programme, saying it is aimed at helping small businessessurvive.

Japan has reported around 163,000 cases and 2,300 deaths. - REUTERS

WORLD