SEOUL - Anseong, a small city south of Seoul that is leading in home recovery for Covid-19 infections, hopes to share its expertise with other regions as South Korea shifts its focus from hospitalisation to home-based treatment.
The city reported 79 cases on Tuesday (Jan 25), but its public healthcare system is equipped to handle up to 150 cases a day.
Anseong, located in Gyeonggi Province, is home to about 200,000 people. It has recorded around 2,600 cases of Covid-19 so far. About 60 per cent of patients now recover at home.
They are low-risk patients with mild or no symptoms, officials from the Ministry of Health and Welfare told journalists gathered at the state-run Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Centre Anseong Hospital.
They will receive a home kit with items such as oximeter, thermometer, medicine, diagnostic test kits and personal protective equipment.
A medical team of five doctors and 19 nurses will monitor their health through phone calls and a mobile phone app.
The hospital also runs a contactless outpatient clinic - with consultations done through glass doors and an intercom system.
With an imminent Omicron wave set to wreak havoc on the country's healthcare system, Anseong mayor Bora Kim voiced hope that the city's model for home recovery can be applied to other cities.
South Korea reported a record high 8,571 cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday. This is double last Tuesday's figure of 4,072, and brings the total tally to 749,979. About half of the new cases are the highly infectious Omicron variant.
Mayor Kim told The Straits Times that Anseong was the first to develop a home recovery model at the local level as it has good public healthcare facilities, abundant medical expertise, and "our residents cooperate very well with the local government".
"Omicron could overwhelm the central government's ability to deal with patients, so it's time for the local authorities to take charge," said Mayor Kim.
"Anseong city is working with our public health centre and other medical institutions on our home recovery model, and it is in full swing now after being launched last October."
Home recovery was first introduced in South Korea in October 2020 at the national level. More than 211,000 patients have recovered at home since. As at this week, 68.8 per cent of patients receive treatment at home.
There are 369 medical institutions and 51 outpatient centres dedicated to home recovery. Those who are unable to isolate at home can recover at short-term treatment centres run by local governments.