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Seoul orders striking doctors back to work amid coronavirus surge

SEOUL: South Korea ordered doctors in the Seoul area to return to work yesterday as they began a three-day strike in protest of several government proposals, including one to boost the number of doctors to deal with health crises such as the coronavirus.

Trainee doctors have been staging ongoing walkouts, and thousands of additional doctors started a three-day strike yesterday.

The strikes come as South Korea battles one of its worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with 320 new cases reported in the 24 hours to midnight Tuesday, the latest in more than a week of triple-digit increases.

The walkouts yesterday forced South Korea's five major general hospitals to limit their hours and delay scheduled surgical operation, Yonhap news agency reported.

Earlier in the week, the doctors reached an agreement with the government to continue to handle coronavirus patients but failed to find a compromise on the broader issues.

"The government now has no choice but to take necessary legal actions such as an order to open business, to not put the citizens' lives and safety in danger," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

He said the Korean Medical Association (KMA) and the Korean Intern Resident Association had rejected several of the government's offers.

KMA said the medical community was always open to all possibilities in talks with the government, and that the doctors did not want to have to strike.

The government said its goal to up the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next 10 years is needed to better prepare for public health crises. - REUTERS

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