[Editorial] Stop the virus from spreading again

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[Editorial] Stop the virus from spreading again

Concerns about a resurgence of Covid-19 from China are growing. Four hundred million Chinese residents have been infected with the virus since Beijing eased regulations on Dec. 7. Medical experts expect the number to soar to 1.27 billion in three months. Chinese retailers are coming to Korea to buy Covid medicines. One of them purchased six million won ($4,736) worth of drugs from pharmacies here.

The Chinese government plans to lift facility isolation requirements for all entrants from January 8. Thanks to the ending of the three-year zero-Covid policy, the number of Chinese people who want to travel overseas increased tenfold and airline ticket reservations fourfold.

That could be good news for Korea’s struggling tourism industry, but a massive inflow of Chinese people could worsen our pandemic situation. In a checkup by Italian public health authorities on Chinese passengers on two airplanes, 38 percent and 52 percent of them were tested positive each.

Korea’s situation is not promising either. Daily cases have reached 80,000 with the basic reproduction number (R0) hovering above 1 for ten consecutive months. The death toll on Wednesday reached 76, the highest since 79 on Sept. 4. If you include hidden cases, the real number of infections will double, experts warn.

Without proper measures, a resurgence is inevitable in Korea. The government must not repeat the previous administration’s failure to block the spread of virus from China in the beginning. We hope that the new quarantine guidelines the government announces today include strengthened measures against passengers from China.

Japan already decided to test all entrants from China from Friday and confine them to four airports. India, Taiwan and Malaysia joined the move by mandating all entrants from China take a Covid test. On Thursday, the U.S. announced a plan to accept passengers from China only when they present a certificate of negative test results.

The government must prevent Chinese retailers from hoarding Covid medicines. As Covid-19 is classified as a second-grade infectious disease in Korea, authorities can hardly ban pharmacies from selling medicines to Chinese merchants to bring them back to China. Nevertheless, the government must find effective ways to solve the problem. Our health authorities also must not hasten to ease indoor face mask requirements around the Lunar New Year holidays in February, as it overlaps with the Chinese Spring Festival.
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