The government isn’t doing its job

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The government isn’t doing its job

The number of people falling ill from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak has topped 1,000 in South Korea just 37 days after the first case was reported. That pace is triple the speed of an influenza that affected 750,000 in 2009. The infection has even spread to residential hospitals and patients treated for pneumonia. Some are predicting the outbreak will peak around March 20, but it is not certain.

All possible resources, financing and manpower should be mobilized to stop the dangerous spread. The government must maximize its public power. Yet the Moon Jae-in administration has been far from being reliable. Moon visited Daegu and asked the public to have faith in the government’s ability to contain the epidemic.

But the opposite is true. At Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang, where 83 people are being quarantined, the medical staff are taking care of patients with only facial masks on and they are not equipped with protection suits. The pitiful sight suggests how lax the government has been in its battle with a contagious disease.

The shortage of masks is another example. There are 113 registered face mask producers in the country. They are capable of producing 13 million masks a day. But the bulk went to China, leaving little for the country. The government hurriedly decided to roll out 3.5 million masks through drug stores, post offices, and other designated locations.

In Daegu, around 100 patients cannot be hospitalized due to a critical lack of beds. The swift spread is a reason, but still authorities worsened the matter because they did not pay heed to warnings from experts about the danger of community contamination. Medical professionals also are lacking. About 200 doctors volunteered to help in Daegu and North Gyeongsang. But the number is far short. The Daegu city government has been pleading the central government to send military doctors. As commander in chief, President Moon must give an order to the Defense Ministry. The military has yet to act.

The government also should have been stricter with the Shincheonji church, who refused to hand over the list of its followers although they were in danger of spreading the disease. The police and local governments should have acted instead of waiting around until the church gave them the names.

The government has been aggressive in mobilizing law enforcement to track down the wrongdoings of past governments. But it is committing a negligence of duty because it failed to put public power in full force to contain a contagious disease jeopardizing our public safety and lives.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 27, Page 30
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