South Korean authorities scrambled on Thursday to build hospital beds in shipping containers to ease strains on medical facilities stretched by the latest coronavirus wave, which shows little sign of abating with 682 new cases.
The resurgence of infections has rekindled concerns about an acute shortage of hospital beds, prompting Seoul to begin installing container beds for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health authorities plan to step up testing by launching temporary sites at some 150 locations across the greater Seoul area.
"We're in a critical situation where our anti-virus efforts and medical system's capacity could reach their limits before long," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a meeting.
"Above all, we will secure sufficient treatment centers and hospital beds for critical cases so that they can receive proper treatment in a timely manner."
In Seoul, with a population of 10 million, only around 3 percent of hospital beds were available for severe cases, and 17 percent for all patients, according to Park Yoo-mi, a quarantine officer at the city government.
The city has dispatched 50 epidemiological investigators to 25 districts to help track down potential patients, in addition to 10 sent from the central government, Park said.
Thursday's 682 new infections came a day after the daily tally hit 686, the second-highest since the country's first case was confirmed in January, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.