As the novel coronavirus tears through South Korea’s hot zones, accelerated by the cult members who resisted getting tested after the first few cases emerged, scenes at some of the advanced capitalist economy’s hospitals are beginning to resemble the crowded hallways and demoralizing refusals that were hallmarks of the “bad old days” of mid-January through mid-February, when the novel coronavirus outbreak was at its most severe in Wuhan.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that hospitals in SK’s hardest-hit areas have been scrambling to accommodate a surge in patients as thousands worried about having the virus crowd into hospitals and beg to be tested. In Daegu alone, 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary facilities retrofitted to treat the massive influx of patients, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said. A 100-bed military hospital is being outfitted with 200 additional beds.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday declared “war” on the virus, apologized for shortages of face masks and promised more support for the worst-hit areas. His office has cancelled a trip to the UAE, which has closed schools for four weeks and cancelled large events to contain the virus as the outbreak in Iran rages out of control. 27 cases have been confirmed in the tiny principality. He also cancelled plans to Egypt (which reported the first cases in Africa) and Turkey (which is in the middle of a nasty spat with Russia).

At least 92 countries have imposed some form of entry restrictions on arrivals from South Korea, including, as VP Pence said earlier, the US.

We’re not certain what the South Korean’s are planning next, but the country’s prime minister highlighted a planned $10 billion stimulus package.

“We need special measures in times of emergency,” South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting, referring to extra medical resources for hotspots and economic measures including a $9.8 billion stimulus.

“In order to overcome COVID-19 as quickly as possible and minimize the impact on the economy, it is necessary to proactively inject all available resources.”

To be sure, if there’s one thing South Korea is getting right, it’s the testing: the country has ramped up testing capacity to 10,000 tests a day. In the US, hundreds, if not thousands, of paranoid patients in the Seattle suburbs and other affected areas are being left on their own as their conditions don’t yet qualify for one of a limited number of tests, according to Bloomberg.

The virus, which is striking in the middle of flu season, has killed at least 9 people in the US. It’s also prompted many who have recently traveled to hot spots – and are now feeling ill (which is not uncommon among travelers) to freak out about the possibility that they may have contracted ‘the virus’. For days, Americans have been taking to Reddit, Twitter, FB etc. to share their frustrating stories about being denied a coronavirus test.

One woman who lives in the Seattle area with her husband and kids said she called the hotline after her entire family fell seriously ill all at once. But they weren’t tested because they didn’t fit the criteria which required that people had traveled to a hot spot to warrant testing. These restrictions, implemented to conserve tests as the government tries to bolster supply, delayed diagnosis of a couple of cases in Washington State.

Soon after spending the day in a Seattle suburb where coronavirus spread, Linda Backstrom began feeling sick herself.

Her twin sons fell ill, too, as did her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. They had fever, sore throats and aches. But when she called a hotline run by the Pierce County health department, Backstrom was told her family didn’t qualify for testing because no one had traveled to an affected country, had direct contact with an infected person or developed pneumonia.

“I don’t think I have the coronavirus,” said Backstrom, 58. “But, as a citizen, I’m wondering why this government doesn’t have access to testing. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Coronavirus struck at the height of regular flu season. It has killed at least nine Americans and also has fed a mounting frustration and even panic among feverish, sniffly citizens – most of whom likely don’t have the novel virus. People want to get assessed, jamming hotlines, creating competition for scarce tests and prompting jealous comparisons to other countries where testing has been ubiquitous.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb said yesterday that the administration was “catching up”, despite evidence showing it’s on track to fall well short of its promise to distribute 1 million tests by week’s end. President Trump’s political rivals have seized the opportunity to accuse him of botching the outbreak response.

“The lack of test kits is a national disgrace,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday. “We will not be able to contain, treat, or mitigate the effects of the virus if we cannot diagnose infection.”

At this point, Trump has gone on record to dismiss the outbreak threat enough times that, if the outbreak is worse than expected, or if it succeeds in crashing the economy, he will have only himself to blame if he loses the general to Joe Biden.

Republished from with permission

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