Preparing for the worstThe Korean government has raised its A(H1N1) flu alert level to red, the highest point on the scale. Officials determined that the virus could quickly become a major epidemic and peak in four to five weeks.
The government has done the right thing by mobilizing all its forces in the face of the unprecedented national health scare. The government will set up a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters at the Ministry of Public Administration, and regional authorities will also establish their own control centers. We expect more systematic solutions to the problem in the near future.
So far, discord among ministries and agencies has caused some confusion and even delays in responses. Despite a soaring number of student infections, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education took a long time to finalize guidelines for school closure, thus creating chaos at schools.
With the College Scholastic Aptitude Test just around the corner, the government has only recently decided to administer vaccines to supervising teachers in quarantined classrooms.
In light of all this, the central headquarters must restore order and must not repeat past mistakes.
First, the government must facilitate vaccination and treatment.
So far, the number of flu deaths in Korea is comparatively lower than figures in other countries. But as the number of patients rises rapidly, we’ll also likely see a rise in the number of serious cases, which will then lead to more deaths.
The most effective response is vaccination.
But now there appears to be a shortage of doctors who can give the shots, meaning the government must first review the manpower picture.
Additionally, to minimize flu deaths the government must also quickly secure enough beds for patients in serious condition.
No patient in need of hospital care should be left out. While there is still enough room as the situation stands now, the government has to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Not doing so could have dire consequences.
No matter how well the government responds, it will all be for naught without public cooperation. The biggest fear right now is that people may overreact to the government’s decision to raise the alert level and grow even more apprehensive of the disease.
That won’t help at all.
If everybody focuses on their personal hygiene, goes in for treatment even with the slightest symptoms of the flu and then stays home for a week, we as a nation can beat this new virus.
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