Joint quarantine needed
A Korean man treated for the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in China has fully recovered and was released from a Chinese hospital. There were no other MERS cases reported in China or Hong Kong, where the man travelled while carrying the virus. Before returning home, the 44-year-old man, Patient No. 10, thanked the Chinese medical staff for their devoted attention and the Chinese authorities for picking up the medical bills while he was in a critical state. The fact that he was the first and last case of MERS in China shows how the country has worked hard to prevent its spread.
We must not be relieved just because all has ended well. Local authorities must remember that their negligence led to a cross-border transportation of an infectious disease and could have caused major harm to another country. The government must toughen quarantine regulations to prevent illnesses from spreading elsewhere due to our poor awareness.
Patient No. 10 was the son of Patient No. 1, the first MERS patient who brought the disease to Korea after a trip to the Middle East. Authorities should have kept a close watch on him. They didn’t and were only aware of his departure after he arrived in China. The country demonstrated major holes in its quarantine system. Hong Kong also became alarmed because the patient travelled there as well. If not for fast action in Hong Kong and China, Korea could have come under fire for spreading the deadly virus overseas.
MERS created another embarrassment when two Korean passengers refused to cooperate with Hong Kong authorities enforcing a quarantine on passengers who were on the same flight with Patient No. 10. It is civil decency to forgo some comforts to help contain the spread of infectious diseases. We must work towards establishing networks for quarantine cooperation among three East Asian nations. Asian countries have some of the highest population densities in the world and travelling amongst Asians is ever increasing. We must learn from the MERS crisis to raise awareness and respond better to new infections at home and work in conjunction with other countries.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 27, Page 26