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Thousands of South Korean doctors strike amid COVID-19 resurgence | Coronavirus pandemic News



Tens of thousands of doctors launched a full-scale strike nationwide on Wednesday, defying a return-to-work order and threats of punishments to protest of the government’s medical workforce reform plan, as the country grapples with the resurgence of coronavirus cases.

The three-day strike is organised by the Korean Medical Association (KMA), which has some 130,000 members, including interns and resident doctors at general hospitals and practitioners at neighbourhood clinics.

The strike action comes following weeks of walkouts and as South Korea continues to battle a resurgence of COVID-19, with the government reporting on Wednesday at least 320 new cases in the previous 24 hours. 

The medics are opposed to government plans to boost the number of medical students across several years, establish public medical schools, allow government insurance to cover more oriental medicine, and broaden the scope of telemedicine. They said the money would be better spent on improving pay and conditions to encourage more people to work outside Seoul.

The strike starting on Wednesday forced South Korea’s five major general hospitals to limit their hours and delay scheduled surgeries, Yonhap news agency reported.

An unknown number of neighbourhood clinics were also closed on Wednesday. About 33 percent of the practitioners closed their clinics during their first strike earlier this month, according to Yonhap.

Threats of licence revocation, fines

Earlier in the week, the doctors reached an agreement with the government to continue to handle coronavirus patients, but failed to find a compromise on their broader concerns.

“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,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a briefing.

“We urge all trainee and fellow doctors to immediately return to work.”

Those who do not follow the government order without probable cause could have their licences revoked and even face a maximum jail term of three years or a fine of less than 30 million won ($25,000).

He said the KMA and the Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) had rejected several of the government’s offers.

The three-day strike is organised by the Korean Medical Association, which has some 130,000 members, including interns and resident doctors at general hospitals and practitioners at neighbourhood clinics [Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA]

In a statement, KMA said the medical community was always open to all possibilities in talks with the government, and that the doctors did not want to have to strike.

“We sincerely do want to return,” the statement said. “We ask you citizens to listen to our voice so that we can meet our patients as soon as possible.”

The government said its goal to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 during the next 10 years is necessary to better prepare for public health crises like the coronavirus pandemic.

Student doctors, however, said the plan would unnecessarily flood an already competitive market, and that the extra funding would be better spent improving the salaries of existing trainees, which would encourage them to move out of Seoul to rural areas where more health professionals are needed.

On Tuesday, both the doctors and the government agreed to launch working-level consultations.

But the talks have yet to generate a significant breakthrough, prompting the doctors to press ahead with the full-scale walkout.

South Korea has reported a total of 18,265 coronavirus cases, and 312 deaths, including two additional fatalities, reported on Wednesday, but the authorities are concerned the country is on the brink of a large outbreak after days of triple-digit increases in cases.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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Is Johnson Byabashaija courting Enid Kukunda for protection?



The very amiable Commissioner General of Prisons Canon Johnson Byabashaija was recently sighted with President Y K Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s second wife Enid Kukunda as the two had a very secretive meeting in one of the city hangouts.

According to our informers, the two seem to be in a deep conversation that they wouldn’t allow a housefly pass around. However, sources further reveal that Byabashaija could have courted the second lady for protection given that he has amassed a lot of wealth and could be a subject of investigations.

Our sources reveal that Byabashaija who carries himself as Mr.I know it all hasn’t met Madam Enid alone but a host of others with connections to the centre of power in the country.

We will bring you more detail

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Bobi Wine released on Bail



Presidential candidate and kyadondo East legislator Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu has been realeased on bail by the Iganga magistrates court where he appeared to defend himself against accusations of flouting COVID-19 campaign SOPs. A defiant Kyagulanyi took the opportunity to blast the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, whom he accuses of using state power to quell dissident.

This follows a tense week that has seen thousands injured and several dead following Hon. Kyagulanyi’s arrest earlier this week. Demonstrations and riots erupted in many parts of the country and heavy police and army deployment was seen all over the country.

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