Response is everything

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Response is everything

The number of people quarantined for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) exceeded 6,500 as of Wednesday. They have to sacrifice their own freedom for a certain period of time for the common good of our society and their cooperation is essential to stopping the spread of the potentially fatal virus. That’s why the central and local governments must allow them to live without undue hassles through meticulous assistance and management while they are quarantined.

The government must first demonstrate thorough measures to make them feel protected at a time of crisis. Civil servants simply checking their whereabouts with occasional phone calls isn’t enough. They must genuinely help them to get along without too much inconvenience until their quarantine period is over. Countermeasures the government announced yesterday to take care of them need to be expanded given the range of individual situations. Considerate administrative services and thoughtful treatment are two of the most effective ways to fight the outbreak.

To do that, the government must devise solutions tailored to individual cases. For instance, it must provide minimum living expenses, food or other daily necessities for people under the poverty line or day laborers. The government also should offer substantial services - like counseling or mediation - to quarantined employees to ensure their job security. In cases involving senior citizens who live alone or are handicapped, social welfare agencies or community volunteers must help them, as seen in one public health center in Chuncheon, Gangwon, where a nutritionist delivered 31 kinds of food to an 81-year-old women in quarantine so she could cook proper meals at home.

The government must come up with effective ways to offer financial support to MERS-stricken hospitals or hospitals exclusively designated for MERS treatment. A considerable number of the latter actually gave up significant revenues from the patients they turned away. The government must devise realistic solutions to make up for their losses. The government’s announcement of a detailed support policy will help those hospitals cooperate fully and transparently.

Careful assistance for people amid a national crisis is a basic duty of the government. That will also strengthen communities’ determination to overcome this unprecedented crisis through joint cooperation. That will give a glimmer of hope to those who are disappointed by the way the government has been dealing with the fatal illness.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 18, Page 30

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