Delayed response blamed in COVID-19 patient's death at home

Asia's Tech News Daily

Delayed response blamed in COVID-19 patient’s death at home
A health care worker is pictured taking a nasal swab from a woman at a testing center in central Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)

A Seoul man in his 60s who was being treated at home for COVID-19 died on Thursday before he could receive hospital care, raising concerns over potential safety problems with the at-home program.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare announcements, the 68-year-old patient, who was not vaccinated, died while under home isolation Thursday, just a day after testing positive. He is the first known patient to die at home since the eligibility criteria were expanded last month.

Most Koreans with COVID-19 now recover at home, instead of in hospitals or other isolation facilities. Since Sept. 25, home care has been the default for patients under 70 years of age if they have mild or no symptoms at the time of diagnosis, and if they are free of risk factors such as chronic lung disease, kidney failure or an organ transplant history.

Patients 70 or older can also opt for home care if they have access to a support person or live-in caretaker who is fully vaccinated.

The ministry said in a text response to press inquiries that the deceased patient had no preexisting health conditions and showed no symptoms on Wednesday, the day he was diagnosed. He was consequently put in home isolation, but developed symptoms that worsened rapidly overnight, it said.

The ministry added that the patient “had insisted on staying home despite a medical practitioner in charge advising facility care because of his age.”

Dr. Eom Joong-sik, an infectious disease specialist at Gachon University Medical Center in Incheon, said that with COVID-19, sometimes the true level of respiratory compromise is belied by an absence of symptoms or only mild symptoms. This was “probably the case for the Seoul patient who died Thursday,” he said.

At medical facilities, chest imaging and other tests can be done to assess a patient’s condition more accurately, while patients treated at home report their own symptoms remotely.

“One of the puzzling characteristics of COVID-19 is that a patient can have low oxygen levels and pneumonia without experiencing breathing difficulty or other outward symptoms,” he said.

Known as “silent hypoxia” or “silent pneumonia,” the stealthily deteriorating condition was more commonly seen in patients in their 50s and older, he said, which is why at-home care should be limited to younger patients without risk factors.

The current age cutoff, 70, is the result of a compromise between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and outside experts advising public officials on stay-at-home care protocols, he said. Eom, who was one of the advisers, said, “The ministry proposed to expand at-home care to older adults in their 70s and up, while the health professionals pushed to lower it.”

August’s analysis by the Health Ministry showed that compared to patients in their 20s and 30s, the rate of intensive care hospitalization was approximately 6.5 times higher for patients in their 40s and 50s, and 17 times higher for patients in their 60s and older.

“Having patients stay at home is not going to be as safe as at a hospital,” he said. “Patients and their caregivers should be informed thoroughly of the signs and symptoms to look out for, and provided with the routes for seeking help.”

Eom added that patients should be able to seek help directly through 119 rather than district officials.

Lee Ki-il, a senior health official, said in a televised briefing held Friday, that currently, instead of 119, patients are instructed to contact the numbers of district officials or health care personnel.

The chief of disaster response division within Seoul’s emergency services, Suh Soon-tak, said in the same briefing that first responders who arrived at the scene were “not aware the patient had COVID-19 and called for additional help, resulting in about half an hour’s delay.”

According to the ministry, the patient’s wife called 119 Thursday at 6:51 a.m. and although first responders arrived within less than 15 minutes, they had to wait until 7:30 a.m. for a COVID-19 emergency response team and special ambulance to arrive.

Soon he went into cardiac arrest and received cardiopulmonary resuscitation while he was being transported. He died at 8:30 a.m. — about 25 minutes after he got to the hospital.

In a phone call Friday, a Seoul official admitted that the emergency response system is still “being fine-tuned to cope with COVID-19 patients having a sudden deterioration.”

On the delayed response, the official said that it took first responders about 20 minutes to “wrap” an ambulance so that it would be safe to carry an infected patient. There are about 20 ambulances in the city equipped to transport patients with COVID-19, he said, just four of which are negative-pressured.

The official also said although the patient in question was located in Seoul’s central-western district of Seodaemun, he had to travel all the way to Seoul National University Hospital in Jongno, about 8 kilometers away, because it was the nearest hospital that could take him in.

The official said because 119 responders may not be able to respond to a COVID-19 case immediately, in the event an emergency, patients at home were told to reach out to the district’s official or a nurse assigned to them.

“You should be able to reach the phone numbers that were given to you by the district public health office,” he said. “If you decide to call 119, you must inform the operator that you have COVID-19.”

In light of the recent fatality, the city planned on building an integrated system of sharing patient information with emergency services, he added.

Staffing levels are also not adequate to cope with remote patient monitoring, an officer at Seoul National University Hospital complained. The hospital, which is one of the four hospitals working with the city on remote health monitoring, had only four nurses who were each communicating with at least 30 patients through phone calls twice a day.

Infectious disease professor Dr. Kim Woo-joo of Korea University said since home recovery was something Korea was trying for the first time, it should “begin with low-risk groups before the system stabilizes and the scope of eligibility can widen.”

Patients’ vaccination status, regardless of their age, is currently not among the criteria for at-home care eligibility, which raises concerns, he said, arguing that under the state of things, unvaccinated 50- to 60-somethings and anyone older “should not qualify for home isolation.”

Statistics from prior months show that about 17 percent of patients who initially had mild or even no symptoms have ended up being hospitalized.

In July and August, 12,037 of the 67,613 patients admitted to nonhospital facilities for patients with mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 — called “community treatment centers” — had to be moved to hospitals after developing more severe symptoms.

Kim said that presumably, a similar proportion of patients placed at home are expected to become sick enough to require hospital treatment, and that the system should be prepared to respond to patients who need to be taken to a hospital.

While the figure is constantly shifting, based on the trends in the past month, there are about 1,000 to 2,000 patients with active cases recovering at home at a given time in Seoul. By Thursday midnight’s count, there were 1,068 patients at home citywide.

By Kim Arin (

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Daily infections stay below 3,000, but critical cases hit all-time high

A long line of people forms yet again at an outdoor COVID-19 testing station in Seoul on Monday, as the country’s new cases show no signs of declining since the ... Read more »

COVID-19 situation ‘very dangerous,' says Korea's disease control chief

Jeong Eun-kyeong, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency chief, speaks during a televised briefing Monday at the agency headquarters in Osong, North Chungcheong Province. (KDCA)The head of Korea’s disease ... Read more »

1,956 people caught for drug-related charges from Aug.-Oct.: police

This Nov. 1, 2021, file photo, provided by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, shows illegal drugs confiscated in a crackdown. (Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency)A total of 1,956 people have been ... Read more »

In-person classes fully resume at schools nationwide amid virus resurgence

Students head to in-person classes at an elementary school in Seoul’s Yongsan district on the first day of the full resumption of in-person school attendance on Monday. (Yonhap)In-person school classes ... Read more »

Daily infections fall below 3,000, country's guard up as in-person classes resume

Students arrive at their junior high school in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Monday, as in-person school classes at all kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools across the ... Read more »

Police chief apologizes over bungled response to violent dispute between neighbors

National Police Agency Commissioner-General Kim Chang-yong (Yonhap) Police chief Kim Chang-yong apologized Sunday for the police’s bungled response to a violent dispute between neighbors that left one person unconscious. “I ... Read more »

Rising number of COVID-19 patients waiting for hospital care in Korea

Portable negative pressure wards for housing COVID-19 patients are set up outside a public hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap) More than 800 patients with COVID-19 in Seoul were waiting for hospital ... Read more »

[From the scene] As home isolation becomes default, bed availability remains issue

Health at Hallym University Medical Center give telephone consultations to Yeongdeungpo-gu patients in home isolation on Thursday. (Ministry of Health and Welfare) Health care workers in charge of looking after ... Read more »

[News Focus] Pay gap for regular, nonregular workers widening

A participant in a job fair in Seoul experiences an experimental interview via virtual reality devices earlier this month. (Yonhap)SEJONG — Nonregular workers’ pay has risen quite slowly compared to ... Read more »

Fine dust blankets much of South Korea

A road around Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, is shrouded in fine dust on Saturday. (Yonhap)A choking pall of fine dust plagued much of South Korea on Saturday, prompting authorities to ... Read more »

US service member detained for refusing sobriety test after car accident

A US service member stationed in South Korea was detained by local police after refusing to take a field sobriety test following a minor car accident, authorities said Saturday. The ... Read more »

S. Korea's daily COVID-19 cases hover over 3,000 for 4th day

People wait in a line to undergo COVID-19 test at a coronavirus testing site at Seoul Station, Friday. (Yonhap) South Korea’s new coronavirus cases stayed above 3,000 for the fourth ... Read more »

Ultrafine dust advisory in effect in Seoul

(Yonhap) An ultrafine dust advisory was issued for all of Seoul on Friday for the first time in about six months, the metropolitan government said. The advisory was issued at ... Read more »

[From the Scene] Korea's top health protection agency chief gets third COVID-19 shot

KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong receives a Moderna booster on Friday morning at a hospital in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, near the agency’s headquarters. (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)The head of South ... Read more »

Return to normal could stop with rise in serious COVID-19 cases: PM

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum (Yonhap)South Korea could stop its return to normal, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Friday as the country continued to see a sharp rise in the number ... Read more »

Quintuplets born in South Korea for first time in 34 years

Photos of the quintuplets born at the Seoul National University Hospital on late Thursday night. (Seoul National University Hospital)South Korea saw the first successful birth of quintuplets in 34 years, ... Read more »

In-person school classes to fully resume next week

A high school teacher conducts online classes in the southeastern city of Daegu last Thursday, a week before the country’s nationwide college entrance exam. (Yonhap)In-person school classes will fully resume ... Read more »

S. Korea's daily COVID-19 cases hover over 3,000 for 3rd day

Makeshift wards made of containers are set up at a parking lot of the Seoul Medical Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)South Korea’s new coronavirus cases stayed above 3,000 for ... Read more »

17 days of normal push Korea's COVID-19 cases to hit new high

People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in southeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)South Korea saw the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since the start ... Read more »

[News Focus] Nonregular jobs increase faster in 5 major cities

A bulletin board at the regional unit of Employment Welfare Plus Center in Seoul shows job information earlier this month. (Yonhap)SEJONG – Major cities outside the capital have led the ... Read more »

Beaumax donates 30,000 masks to Myanmar upon high school kid's request

A ceremony is held for Beaumax’s donation of 30,000 face masks to children in need in Myanmar through Worldshare. (Beaumax)Cosmetics firm Beaumax donated 30,000 face masks to support disadvantaged children ... Read more »

[Photo News] Rogers family in hanbok

Investor Jim Rogers (left), his wife Paige Parker (right) and their daughter Hilton Augusta pose in contemporary hanbok at their residence in Singapore in this file photo acquired by The ... Read more »

Daily reports of stalking sharply increase after implementation of anti-stalking law: police

View from the outside of a police station (Yonhap)The number of stalking complaints filed with police shot up to about 103 cases a day since the anti-stalking law went into ... Read more »

S. Korea's daily virus cases hit new record high amid relaxed virus curbs

People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in southeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)South Korea’s new coronavirus cases hit an all-time high on Thursday since the ... Read more »

National college entrance exam kicks off amid pandemic

College aspirants at a high school in Seoul’s Yongsan district prepare to take the College Scholastic Ability Test on Thursday. (Yonhap)Nearly 500,000 high school seniors and other exam takers nationwide ... Read more »

Gimhae city apologizes for mandatory virus testing of foreign children amid xenophobia concerns

The headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul. (Yonhap)The government of the southeastern city of Gimhae apologized Thursday for ordering mandatory COVID-19 tests of foreign children ... Read more »

USFK begins COVID-19 inoculation program for affiliated children

A seven-year old child gets a Pfizer vaccine shot at a US Forces Korea base in Pyeongtaek, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)The US Forces Korea on Wednesday started inoculating children in its ... Read more »

Korea reviewing emergency approval for Merck's COVID-19 pills

Minister of Food and Drug Safety Kim Ganglip speaks to reporters during a press conference held Wednesday at the ministry headquarters in Osong, North Chungcheong Province. (Ministry of Food and ... Read more »

[Newsmaker] Ex-lawmaker's home, Hana Bank head office searched in Daejang-dong scandal

Investigators from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office carry boxes containing items they seized during the raid on ousted lawmaker Kwak Sang-do on Nov.17.(Yonhap)South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday searched ousted ... Read more »

Korea to shorten wait for COVID-19 boosters as breakthrough hospitalizations rise

People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in southeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)South Korea will shorten the wait for COVID-19 booster shots as the daily ... Read more »

Seoul reports record daily COVID-19 cases

People stand in line to receive coronavirus tests at a screening clinic in southeastern Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)Daily coronavirus cases in Seoul topped 1,400 for the first time Wednesday, two ... Read more »

'Face-to-face phishing' on rise: police

This illustrated image depicts voice phishing. (Yonhap)Voice phishing scammers are getting increasingly bold lately as many of them prefer to directly meet fraud victims to extort money, the National Police ... Read more »

Gimhae city withdraws virus test program of foreign children amid xenophobia concerns

The headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul. (Yonhap)The government of the southeastern city of Gimhae on Wednesday withdrew a mandatory virus test program of foreign ... Read more »

Metaverse ceremony to virtually celebrate homecoming of late independence hero Kim Gu

This image of a metaverse avatar of independence hero Kim Gu is provided by the Seoul Museum of History. (Seoul Museum of History)A metaverse event on Wednesday will conjure up ... Read more »

New COVID-19 cases spike to second-largest figure of 3,187

A nurse in full protective gear works at a ward for serious COVID-19 cases in Gachon University Gil Medical Center in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)South Korea’s daily ... Read more »

2.9 magnitude earthquake hits off S. Korea's southeastern coast: KMA

This image, provided by the Korea Meteorological Administration, shows the epicenter of a 2.9 magnitude earthquake that hit South Korea’s southeastern coast on Wednesday. (KMA)A 2.9 magnitude earthquake struck off ... Read more »

S. Korea to cut dosage interval for COVID-19 booster shots on senior citizens

A health worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to a person at a hospital in Seoul in this photo taken last Monday. (Yonhap)South Korea will cut the dosage interval ... Read more »

[News Focus] Korea to top OECD gender pay gap, again

Flags of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at its headquarters in Paris (OECD)SEJONG — South Korea looks set to keep its undesirable No. 1 position in the pay ... Read more »

Seoul hospitals overwhelmed, but Korea committed to staying open

  A proctor in full protective gear rehearses to supervise the college entrance test at a classroom for test-takers with COVID-19 symptoms at Areum High School in Sejong, central South ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic