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South Korea official
Image: Reuters/K. Hong-Ji

Coronavirus digest: S. Korea doctors strike as cases spike

August 26, 2020

Health bosses in South Korea have ordered doctors to return to work after they went on strike at the same time the country experiences a surge in new coronavirus cases. Follow DW for the latest.

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South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo on Wednesday warned doctors that they could face prison if they do not return to work.

A strike by doctors comes as South Korea grapples with one of its worst outbreaks of COVID-19, with 320 cases reported in a 24-hour period.

Doctors complain that a government plan to increase the number of medical students is ill-conceived. The walkouts forced several major general hospitals to limit hours and cancel surgeries.

Doctors say the plan would flood a market that is already competitive — and that the money should be used to improve salaries.

"The government now has no choice but to take necessary legal actions such as an order to open business to not put the citizens' lives and safety in danger," Minister Park said in a briefing. "We urge all trainee and fellow doctors to immediately return to work."

Read more:Coronavirus bounces back to threaten South Korea's health system 

He warned that medics who did not return could have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of up to three years.

Both the Korean Medical Association and the Korean Intern Resident Association have rejected several government offers.

Germany

Munich will partially ban alcohol if coronavirus cases reach a certain threshold. The rule comes amid an uptick in infections in the city, often dubbed Germany's beer capital.

In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, passengers without masks on trains and buses have been handed hefty spot fines in a major police operation.

Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that Germany will begin intensifying quarantine checks on travelers returning from high-risk areas, following the release of data showing that over 40% of new infections stem from overseas travelers. 

Authorities are also taking steps to ramp up digitalization to better track those who have returned from summer holidays in high-risk places. 

"At a time when the number of new infections in Germany is low, it is important to prevent the virus from spreading within the country through returning travelers," he said.

Europe

France could face a second wave of coronavirus infections in November, a French government health expert has warned. Professor Jean-Francois Delfraissey, who heads the scientific council that advises the government, said Europe faces a resurgence as people spend more time indoors.

Pupils at high schools in parts of England where there are local lockdowns will have to wear face masks in communal places, after a government U-turn on enforcing their use.

A patient in the Netherlands and another in Belgium have been reinfected with the coronavirus, Dutch media reported Tuesday, following reports that scientists in Hong Kong had confirmed the first known reinfection.

Read moreCoronavirus reinfections confirmed in the Netherlands, Belgium

Asia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly raised alarm about the nation's coronavirus response. At an enlarged meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim said there had been "defects'' and "shortcomings" in the country's' anti-virus campaign.

Innovative Japanese firms are providing bored and frustrated city-dwellers with a place to have fun — but also stay safe — as the coronavirus crisis rumbles on.

Read moreTired of coronavirus lockdown, Japanese turn to horror for the chills 

Americas

Officials in Mexico have said they fear the country may have entered a plateau of coronavirus infections after about three weeks of slight declines. The Health Department said Tuesday there had been 4,916 newly confirmed cases in 24 hours, bringing Mexico's total to 568,621. There were also 650 newly confirmed deaths. The country's total number of fatalities — 61,450  is the third highest in the world.

Read moreCoronavirus: Mexico 'flying blind' in pandemic response

rc/stb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)