Air ambulances are a lifeline for South Korean nationals living overseas,… as countries in Southeast Asia witness surging numbers of COVID-19 infections.
With medical facilities in those countries overwhelmed, Korean patients in critical condition are left with no other choice but to fly home as quickly as possible.
"The demand for these flights has surged among COVID-19 patients. More patients and families are choosing to get transferred using air ambulances, despite their high cost,… due to the challenges faced by some countries."
Air ambulances operate much like intensive care units.
During the flight, patients are accompanied by skilled medics who are capable of handling medical emergencies.
To prevent the virus from spreading, patients are transferred in portable isolation units.
And oxygen tanks are provided for the critically ill.
Once they arrive at Incheon International Airport, they are immediately taken to hospitals.
Companies like 'Flying Doctors Korea' as well as 'Assist Card Korea' have been providing Korean patients with medical-evacuation flights, using the worldwide air ambulance network.
According to 'Flying Doctors Korea', around 100 South Korean COVID-19 patients have been transferred since the outbreak of the pandemic.
More than half of them came from Indonesia.
"Right now, we are transferring the most patients from Southeast Asia,… mostly from Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. From mid-June, patients were transferred almost every day,… and on some days, air ambulances even operated twice a day."
The rising demand for air ambulances comes as these Southeast Asian countries are struggling to contain spiking numbers of infections.
According to the World Health Organization, Indonesia reported the world's highest coronavirus tally last week, at over 350-thousand cases.
Lately, Myanmar has been seeing around 6-thousand cases a day, with a record-high number of deaths.
Choi Min-jung, Arirang News.