By Yeni Seo and Daewoung Kim
NAMYANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) – South Korean health workers staffing COVID-19 testing centres in the summer heat can now take a minute to peel off their heavy protective suits and cool down in government-provided ‘recovery buses’ equipped with air conditioning, cold water and snacks.
South Korea has been battling its largest wave of infections so far, though vaccinations among vulnerable populations and key workers have limited serious cases.
South Korea reported 1,202 new COVID-19 cases for Monday raising the total to 202,203 infections, with 2,104 deaths. The country detected its first two cases of the new Delta Plus COVID-19 variant, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Tuesday.
“It feels like I’m in igloo and I can refresh myself here,” a medical staffer Jung Tae-du said on Tuesday while resting in a bus at a walk-through coronavirus testing centre in Namyangju, a city just outside the capital Seoul.
The 22 buses are usually used as resting spaces by police and fire fighters and are being deployed on a rotating basis to temporary testing centres, according to the Health Ministry.
“The working environment of medical workers at testing centres is similar to that of firefighters, so we decided to provide recovery buses to help them as the prolonged coronavirus situation and heat waves aggravate their difficulties,” Shin Yeol-woo, Fire Commissioner of South Korea’s National Fire Agency told Reuters.
The National Fire Agency said some buses are equipped with shower booths and bunk beds, and stocked with cups of instant noodles and kimchi. The agency is considering providing another 82 fire station buses upon request by local government.
(Reporting by Yeni Seo and Daewoung Kim; Writing by Minwoo Park; Editing by Josh Smith and Raissa Kasolowsky)