Tightening watch on MERSA United Arab Emirates national showing symptoms of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) disappeared from the emergency room at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Jongno District, central Seoul, sending health authorities scurrying to locate here for quarantine.
The public remembering the nightmare of an outbreak last year was stunned to discover the loophole in hospital and quarantine standards.
The problem soon came under control because the police was able to locate the patient and carry her off to the National Medical Center for further checkup and treatment. The emergency quarter of Kangbuk Samsung Hospital was sealed and the hospital staff who treated the patient also became quarantined.
But the follow-up actions do not explain the lax early-stage measures. The suspected patient who showed signs of MERs with high fever declined to comply with the hospital guideline to stay in a negative pressure room until the test results were out. Even for non-Koreans, the guidelines on infectious diseases must be strictly obliged. Foreigners also should be made quarantined until proven negative. Tourists staying in residences in the downtown area can roam in largely crowed places. We cannot imagine what could have happened if a positive patient went missing for hours.
The government should have ready booklets in different languages and translation services to explain and warn foreign visitors of quarantine regulations. Medical institutions must implement quarantine actions on suspected patients regardless of their nationality.
Immediate actions are essential to prevent infectious disease turning into an epidemic outbreak. They must not fear of diplomatic complexities in dealing with foreigners. No countries would complain when public health is at risk. In a globalized world, epidemic must be addressed with consistency and strictness for the safety of the local citizens and outside community.