Self-indulgence leads to spreadThe transmission of a contagious virus is a pathological process. But the human role is blamed for the spread of the disease and the scare over it. The South Korean government will be responsible if the spread of the new coronavirus becomes the same social threat like in China due to its sloppy early-stage actions.
The government was unreliable from the beginning. President Moon Jae-in said anxiety was over-hyped when the third case was reported on Jan. 26. Just a few days earlier, the World Health Organization warned of the number of patients growing within weeks in South Korea.
On Jan. 3, three more cases were reported. Over that period in China, confirmed patients surged from 1,975 to 7,711, and the death toll from 56 to 170. The Blue House took charge on Jan. 27 amid the fast spread and two days later turned over command to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The spread then accelerated because inspection was restricted to those who had been to China. A hospital in Gwangju reported a patient, who later was confirmed as the 16th patient, to the head clinic. Neither the KCDC nor the clinic pressed any further because she had not been to China. As a result, her daughter (18th patient) and brother (22nd) were infected.
The government acted behind the United States, Japan and others who began evacuating their nationals from Wuhan, China, as well as restricting the entries of foreign nationals from the city. South Koreans flown in from Wuhan have been isolated, whereas Chinese nationals from Wuhan have been roaming around South Korea freely.
The government is still mindful of irking Beijing. It first decided to prohibit Chinese visitors early this month but put off the plan hours later. Civilian petitions calling for an entry ban on Chinese visitors reached 750,000 signatures, but the government has not answered. Even China’s closest allies, North Korea and Russia, have long sealed off their borders.
The government and ruling party merely repeat they will punish the spread of fake news and vowed to triumph in the battle against the virus. It self-congratulated itself, claiming its response was better than during the outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2015.
While the government remains self-indulgent, person-to-person transmission and infection with serious symptoms are spreading fast.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 7, Page 30