Honor our heroesDespite the government’s early flop in controlling entrants from virus-hit China and infections that spread through a religious sect, the coronavirus outbreak has been relatively successfully contained in Korea thanks to rigorous social-distancing by citizens and world-class medical workers and hospitals. Doctors and nurses who have staked their lives have saved many others. The mortality rate from Covid-19 in Korea is at 1.7 percent, significantly low when compared to the levels in the United States and Europe.
The government must thank the medical community for the easing in the spread. But it not only stole the limelight by taking credit for the quarantine progress, but also discredited the commitment by medical professionals.
The government excluded medical workers at drive-thru clinics from its hazard payouts. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that staff at drive-thru locations are less exposed to the risk of contagion than those dealing directly with patients. If anyone from the ministry spent a day taking samples from the throats and noses of patients, they would not have arrived at such a neglectful decision.
When medical facilities complained of a critical lack of face masks and protection wear, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo casually advised against stocking such supplies. He would not have made such a lame reaction if he had seen doctors in surgery gowns instead of protection wear when treating their virus-stricken patients. The government even ordered the shutdown of a hospital lab when a 17-year-old died of pneumonia and tested positive for Covid-19 in postmortem inspection, although it later retracted the move.
The Korean Medical Association likened the government to the corrupt royal court of the Joseon Dynasty that dumped the blame on the civilian soldiers who staked their lives to fight Japanese invaders in the 16th century after the battle turned favorably for the country.
The state has a duty to show respect and reward the medical community that remains committed even as over 120 of them have been infected. The Blue House sent lunches and food trucks to the locations where Koreans evacuated from Wuhan were quarantined, and the headquarters of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Blue House did not do the same for medical workers. It must remember who to appreciate during times of disease disasters.