Mimicking U.S. measures

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Mimicking U.S. measures

The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

As the world experiences the Covid-19 crisis together, countries learn from each other. The United States took Korea’s aggressive testing and diagnosis, Korea has also benchmarked from measures taken in the United States, such as social distancing and emergency assistance.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on March 16 that all non-essential businesses are to be closed for 15 days and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Multipurpose facilities such as restaurants, shopping malls and churches have been closed at the directive of state governments. Some states banned commuting and even imposed fines. In 27 states, 225 million people are staying home. That’s two out of three Americans. On March 21, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun announced strict social distancing for 15 days. The format is similar, but the content and intensity are different. While the United States forcibly closed businesses, the Prime Minister has asked private institutes and churches to close. Dining and gatherings at restaurants and clubs continue to happen.

I don’t want to blame the people for not abiding by social distancing. It looks like a policy that missed the timing. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci said that social distancing is used to flatten the curve to prevent the epidemic from peaking in a short period of time. It is useful when occurrence is explosive.

In the United States, patients increased by 35 times from 4,000 to 140,000 in 15 days. Meanwhile, the curve has already flattened in Korea.
On the day of Prime Minister Chung’s statement, 8,799 have tested positive, and the number grew to 9,661 — 100 a day by March 30. What Korea needs now may be blocking the inflow from abroad rather than strict social distancing.

The United States was the first to pay cash. Trump announced on March 17 the government would pay cash for emergency relief. President Moon Jae-in announced on March 30 that four-person households with the bottom 70 percent of income would receive assistance. Behind the United States’ decision to make pay outs was that businesses closed at the government’s order, and large-scale unemployment and damage was inevitable. As many as 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in a week. As the United States failed in initial response and had to force extreme social distancing by closing the country, the U.S. government is taking compensation measures.

Korea’s relief assistance is ambiguous in nature. It is unnecessary for Korea, which has become a model of disease control without imposing blockade thanks to aggressive testing and response. If it is a bonus for the pains and efforts of the people, everyone should get it. An epidemic does not distinguish income level. The government should persuade the people that the purpose is not covering up the economic administrative flaws or being generous with tax money.
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