‘Recovery Bus’ Provides Cool Relief for S. Korea’s COVID-19 Testers

NAMYANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) -
A health worker rests inside a booth as she conducts a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a coronavirus testing site in Seoul, South Korea, July 15. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

South Korean health workers staffing COVID-19 testing centers 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 center in Namyangju, a city just outside the capital Seoul.

The 22 buses are usually used as resting spaces by police and firefighters and are being deployed on a rotating basis to temporary testing centers, according to the Health Ministry.

“The working environment of medical workers at testing centers is similar to that of firefighters, so we decided to provide recovery buses to help them as the prolonged coronavirus situation and heatwaves 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.