Preparing for a long-haul fight against Covid-19

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Preparing for a long-haul fight against Covid-19

Park Neung-hoo

Park Neung-hoo

A recent survey conducted by The Kyunghyang Shinmun and published on Oct. 5 showed 77 percent of the general public were positive about the Korean government's measures against the coronavirus over the past nine months. 
The measures were based on the principles of openness, transparency and democracy. 
Through speedy epidemiological investigations and testing, Korea was able to limit the infection rate to 52 cases per 100,000 people as of Nov. 3, and by building an effective treatment system, the fatality rate has also been held to a low 1.75 percent. 
The public's active participation and cooperation toward mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines have been key factors to this success — as were other creative measures led by the government, including the special management of people arriving from foreign countries, drive-thru testing, establishing so-called life treatment centers for patients with mild symptoms and the use of information communication technology to keep digital visitor logs. 
I think the public's positive reaction to such endeavors reflects their pride in Korea's preventive system.
Yet in the same survey, 20 percent of the public said they thought negatively of the Korean government's preventive measures, and this calls attention to a plethora of tasks that had been brushed aside as preventive measures were placed at the forefront. 
People grew stressed out and vulnerable populations lacked access to caregiving services. Restrictions were imposed on freedom of assembly, and some people had their personal information unnecessarily revealed. 
Negative impacts on the economy were minimized, but stringent social distancing measures led many business owners to suffer in pain.  
Now is the time for a long-haul battle. At a time when we do not have a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus, we must enhance sustainability in the way we approach the pandemic. 
We must discreetly search for ways to revive the local economy and bring our everyday lives back to normal, all the while continuously pursuing preventive measures. 
Based on these preventive measures developed over the past nine months, plus the capabilities of our medical system, the Korean government is meticulously correcting any flaws found in the national social distancing scheme. 
Rather than enforcing sweeping shutdown orders on an entire type of business, the government is trying to improve the scheme in a way that's based on the autonomy and responsibilities of each individual and group. 
The government will also systematically manage caregiving programs and public stress caused by Covid-19. The trust and cooperation shown by the public will be the biggest help in the forthcoming long-haul battle.
By Park Neung-hoo 
The author is the minister of health and welfare.

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