Shutting the doorTo win the battle against the new coronavirus, the government should take two steps: blocking any influx of Covid-19 from overseas and stopping its spread in local communities. The Moon Jae-in administration mandated tests for travelers from Europe — the new epicenter of the outbreak — from Sunday and encouraged so-called “social distancing” among the public. Despite an alleged letup in China, the virus is rampaging across the European continent. Of the 1,000 passengers a day Korea receives from Europe, it’s possible that 5 percent of them are infected with the virus. That is a line of contagion we can close off.
The problem is the huge expense of quarantining incoming foreigners. Whether they test positive or negative, 150,000 won ($118) is spent on each to carry out the test. If a traveler tests positive, the cost of quarantine for at least two weeks is 4 million won. There are other costs, and even people who test negative are told to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Covid-19 is spreading fast around the globe with more than 300,000 people already confirmed infected in 193 countries. To some desperate foreigners whose lives could be at stake, Korea — equipped with quality medical infrastructure — could be seen as a newfound haven in their tough battle against the virus. In an ironic development, Korea continues to leave its doors open to foreigners while its people are shunned by more than 170 countries now. But those doors are closing somewhat.
The Moon administration must think again whether it can really afford such lenient treatment. Even if the government champions humanity and human rights, it must first weigh carefully if it has the ability to pay for such largesse. Actually, it all started with the government’s reluctance to block the entry of people from China at the initial stages of the outbreak because of its reluctance to get on the bad side of Beijing.
As community infections grow, serious problems have to be avoided in the Seoul metropolitan area. An example is the death of a 17-year-old in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang, because he could not get appropriate medical treatment. The government should not discriminate against foreigners. But a state is required to protect the safety of its citizens first. We urge the government to enforce an all-out ban on the entry of foreigners at least for the next two weeks.