Medical workers are preparing to perform Covid-19 tests on all inmates at Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul, South Korea, on Jan. 5. Yonhap / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

South Korea will test every prisoner held for Covid-19 in the country’s 52 detention centers after a number of cases emerged at a detention center in the capital, Seoul.

Health Department official Yoon Tae-ho announced the plan at a briefing Wednesday. Yoon said prisoners have been tested in 11 facilities and no positive cases have been reported so far. Prisoners in the other 41 facilities have not yet been tested, Yoon said.

Viruses can spread easily in prisons due to their small, cramped spaces and lack of fresh air. The cluster at the Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul exploded in just a few weeks. It was discovered in mid-December, and authorities have now found 1,118 cases associated with the detention center, mostly among the prison population. The facility was home to 2,292 inmates when the first cases were identified.

Justice Department official Kim Jae-sul said the detention center was overcrowded when the cluster was discovered, which would make the virus easier to spread. Yoon, the health ministry official, said 972 prisoners had been transferred to various facilities, reducing the population density.

New cases: South Korea identified 809 local and 31 imported coronavirus cases Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement. Of these, 567 cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Although cases are slowly declining, authorities had to search for a winter flood to find new hospital beds, particularly in Seoul. Yoon said authorities had “secured” more beds for Covid-19 patients and that there were now a total of 177 intensive care beds available nationwide for coronavirus treatment.

So far, 65,818 cases of Covid-19 have been identified in South Korea, killing 1,027 people.


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