Asia Today: SKorea orders doctors to end strike amid crisis

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SEOUL, South Korea – Health officials in South Korea have ordered thousands of striking medics to return to work as the country had its 13th consecutive day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said those who refused could have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison sentence of less than three years.

Doctors from the greater Seoul area joined doctors from other parts of the country in a three-day strike starting Wednesday against government plans to increase the number of medical students.

The walkouts have forced major hospitals in Seoul to cut working hours or delay some surgeries, according to the Yonhap news agency.

“The government will respond harshly to any collective action that takes the lives and safety of people hostage amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Park said.

The health ministry said more than 2,000 medical facilities across the country signaled plans to close on Wednesday after groups of doctors including the Korean Medical Association and the Korean Association of Internal Residents expressed their dissatisfaction. negotiations with government officials.

The government wants to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next decade, saying it is essential to deal with crises like COVID-19 and to narrow the health care gap between the highly region. developed from Seoul and the rest of the country.

Doctors groups say the country already has enough doctors competing in a fierce market. They say the government should instead use its financial resources to improve compensation for interns and encourage them to relocate to areas outside of Seoul where medical professionals are most needed.

South Korea’s Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has reported 320 new cases of COVID-19, including 237 in the Seoul area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence in recent weeks. Health workers have struggled to stem transmissions linked to churches, schools, restaurants and door-to-door vendors.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

– India has reported more than 67,000 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of reported infections in the country to 3.2 million, with 1.5 million infections reported in this month alone. The Ministry of Health also reported 1,059 deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths from the pandemic to 59,449. India has recorded more than 60,000 new infections per day in the past two years. weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on August 19. Newly reported infections fell to around 61,000 on Monday and Tuesday, but picked up in the past 24 hours. The ministry said India’s recovery rate is now around 76% with a fatality rate of 1.84%. Even though the country of nearly 1.4 billion people has slowly opened up to heal the economy, areas identified as the most affected by the virus continue to be blocked.

– China suspended a flight from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai for a week after five passengers on board tested positive for the coronavirus. Etihad flight EY862 has been put on hold from Tuesday, the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration said. For the 10th day in a row, China reported only imported cases, with 15 more added on Wednesday. China currently has 347 people on treatment for COVID-19, while an additional 365 people are being monitored in isolation for testing positive for the virus without showing symptoms. The country has reported 4,634 deaths out of 84,996 COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan at the end of last year.

– The hard-hit Australian state of Victoria recorded one of its deadliest days in the pandemic on Wednesday, despite the continuing downward trend in new COVID-19 infections. The 24 deaths in the last 24-hour period represent the highest death toll since August 17. Victoria’s health department reported 149 new cases on Wednesday after 148 infections on Tuesday. Wednesday’s tally brought the weekly average to 175 new cases per day, up from 279 the week before.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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