Korea’s medical system is under strain as daily coronavirus infections surpassed 5,000 for five days running and severe cases hover at around 700. ICU beds in Seoul and neighboring Incheon are 91 percent full and reaching the danger zone.

Some medical experts say it is already difficult to accept new patients if around 80 percent of dedicated ICU beds are filled and are particularly worried a looming shortage of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines that act as the hearts and lungs for patients. The Korean Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery said the number of patients requiring ECMO machines will peak over the next two to four weeks and warned of severe problems for other patients who need lung surgery.

Two weeks ago, President Moon Jae-in told the nation the government can easily deal with 5,000 or even 10,000 new infections a day, but in reality the country’s medical system is already reeling after daily infections reached 5,000. What will happened when they soar to 10,000?

Experts blame the government for the latest crisis. Korea is not much different from Japan when it comes to vaccination rates, but Japan is seeing fewer than 100 new cases a day. Japan has mainly administered Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while Korea in the early stages administered mostly AstraZeneca shots, which have been found to become ineffective just 10 weeks after full vaccination. This means that the government’s failure to secure a wider variety of vaccines early on could be responsible for the latest surge.

Yet Moon continues to pat himself on the back, saying Korea’s successful quarantine efforts have raised the country’s international status. Every time he says that, the health crisis worsens. What has been done with the money that has been allocated to fight the pandemic?

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