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Breakdown of virus deaths so far

Patients in Daegu die waiting for hospital beds

Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)

According to the latest data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 deaths in South Korea are linked to existing medical conditions, with the disease proving to be more deadly among elderly people.

Thirty-one of the 5,186 patients who contracted the new coronavirus have died so far. With the three latest deaths not included in the official tally yet, the fatality rate stands at about 0.6 percent -- a fourth of the 2.3 percent figure reported in China.

The average age of the patients who died of the virus is 68.5 years, and the average time from diagnosis to death is four days.

All had health issues such as heart, liver, kidney and lung diseases or Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The overwhelming majority of deaths, 96 percent, have been reported in Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang Province.

Of the 21 who died in Daegu, four could not be admitted to hospitals despite confirmation that they were infected due to the lack of available beds. They died while in home isolation.

One patient, an 83-year-old man who died Tuesday morning at a hospital in Daegu, tested positive for the virus on Monday after he was hospitalized for breathing difficulties.

Seven of the deaths were of former patients at a psychiatric ward at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, a county in North Gyeongsang Province.

The National Medical Center’s clinical committee for new infectious diseases said all the deceased had preexisting lung problems, which is believed to have caused the disease to progress rapidly.

The committee said the high infection and death rates at the mental health facility were attributable to shared communal spaces and poorly ventilated rooms, with windows and doors shut to prevent patients from hurting themselves.

The only known non-Korean to have died was a 35-year-old Mongolian who came here on Feb. 12 for a liver transplant.

The patient, who had chronic liver disease and renal failure, was taken to Myongji Hospital in Goyang on Feb. 24, where he tested positive for the virus. He suffered two consecutive cardiac arrests in the morning and early afternoon of Feb. 25, but was resuscitated both times through CPR. He died later that day at 5:50 p.m.

He was also the youngest patient to die. No other patients in their 30s have died.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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