SEOUL, South Korea -- Health officials in South Korea called on thousands of striking doctors to return to work as the country counted its 13th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo cited the growing virus crisis while issuing back-to-work orders for doctors in the greater capital area who had joined physicians in other parts of the country for a three-day strike starting Wednesday to protest government plans to boost the number of medical students. Doctors’ groups say such measures would worsen what’s already a cut-throat market.
South Korea’s Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reported 320 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 237 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, which has been the center of a viral resurgence in recent weeks. Health workers have struggled to stem transmissions linked to various places and groups, including churches, schools, restaurants and door-to-door salespeople.
Park’s ministry said more than 2,000 medical facilities nationwide had reported their intentions to close for Wednesday after doctors’ groups, including the Korean Medical Association and the Korean Intern Resident Association, expressed dissatisfaction over their negotiations with government officials.
Park said doctors who refuse to return to work could possibly have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of less than 3 years.
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