Tackling a mutated virusA year has passed since the Chinese government formally reported to the World Health Organization on the outbreak of a “new respiratory infectious disease” in Wuhan on Dec. 31, 2019. The novel coronavirus has since infected more than 80 million, or 1 percent of 7.8 billion people, around the world, and has claimed the lives of more than 1.7 million already.
Even with few signs of easing, a variant that is much far stronger than Covid-19 is terrorizing the world. The variant strain first reported in Britain is said to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than Covid-19. The new type has sprouted in many parts of Europe, including France, Germany and Italy and even has landed in Africa, America and the Middle East. Foreign media reported that the unidentifiable powerful virus also has been found in South Africa. Similar cases are being reported in Singapore and Japan.
The virus has already landed in Korea. Last week, the government suspended flights from and to Britain and banned entries from the country. But it may have acted too late as the British government in mid-December said two-thirds of new cases were infected with the mutated virus. The Covid-19 outbreak in Korea happened because the government did not seal off the borders for entrants from China in time.
Before the entry ban, a man in his 80s, who had returned from Britain on Dec. 13 died and was later confirmed to have tested positive. Two of his family members also tested positive. Authorities have concluded that they were infected with the new type of virus.
Korea is under a bigger risk than others because it has been behind in the import of vaccines from overseas. Deaths have already topped 800 and the number of critically ill patients is rising fast due to a lack of hospital beds. If the variant risk is added to that, the damage could be augmented.
A temporary flight suspension from Britain is not enough as people can transfer flights. Authorities must also restrict their entries and toughen tests at customs so as not to repeat the mistake it made early this year.
The authorities have decided not to elevate the social distancing level to the top Level 3 in the capital region. But we wonder if the government really made an appropriate decision given the number of new cases.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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