Self-treatment for self-survival?

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Self-treatment for self-survival?

The author is a life economic news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Until the 1990s, self-service was an unfamiliar term in Korea. Some saw the phrase “self-serve” on the wall at a restaurant and thought it must be a new menu item. Some older people yelled at servers, “How dare you make customers get their own water!”

Self-service is the practice of customers helping themselves to purchased products or services. At gas stations, customers pump their own gas, and at cafes, customers pick up their own drinks rather than having them brought by servers.

The history of self-service goes back to 215 B.C. in ancient Egypt. At sacred water fountains at temples, visitors would insert coins and turn a valve, and the sacred water would flow. Customers paid and helped themselves to the goods.

The universalization of self-service creates a bond. Owners get to save on labor cost and provide goods at a cheaper price, and customers provide “shadow labor” to use products at cheaper prices.

In the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the era of “self-treatment” has arrived. Korea’s disease control I experienced while in isolation with a 6-year-old kid was brutal. My child tested positive in the rapid antigen test but needed to get a PCR for verification. I had the kid with a fever on my back in the cold and waited on the street in front of a public health center in my neighborhood for three hours to get a PCR test.

My vomiting child was in the “general management category” with a fever of 39.6 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit) and was too young to describe their symptoms. I contacted an ear-nose-and-throat clinic I frequently visited and was told that I should make a “contactless visit” to a “designated hospital.”

Calls to the public health center didn’t go through. And when I went to an ER nearby, I was told that the wait would be six hours. In the end, all I could do was give my kid fever-reducing medicine I bought from a pharmacy. Two days after the positive diagnosis, I received a text message with a list of designated hospitals.

Presidential candidates in the March 9 election are all offering promises to scrap vaccine passes. One-hundred and seventy-thousand people are diagnosed daily, and more than 700,000 are in self-treatment. Citizens know that the vaccine pass doesn’t work, and the medical system cannot handle all the cases.

The consensus for self-treatment has been formed, but the execution is the problem. At this point, it is hard to avoid criticism that self-treatment is negligence. When the vaccine pass is scrapped, the number of people in self-treatment will inevitably increase. We need solid preparation. Self-treatment should not be self-survival. 

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