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Shame on the government

Feb 24,2020
In an emergency meeting at the Blue House Sunday to cope with the spread of the new coronavirus, President Moon Jae-in raised the level of danger to “serious” from “caution.” The president made the decision after the infection had spread to 17 metropolitan cities and provinces across the country. The Moon administration did not pay heed to our medical community’s repeated requests to do so earlier.

While the government was on the wrong foot — overly obsessed with the so-called “China factor” and the upcoming parliamentary elections — the lethal virus has spread across the entire nation and started to paralyze everyday lives. In Daegu, which has the greatest concentration of infections, local residents are in a state of panic, as seen in its empty streets.

Given a critical lack of medical infrastructure there, extraordinary measures are needed. On Friday, the government designated Daegu and North Gyeongsang as areas under “special watch.” If that is not enough, the government must consider declaring the region a “special disaster area.” It must find effective ways to supply face masks, the prices of which have skyrocketed. The National Assembly also must draw up a supplementary budget to deal with the emergency.

It is regrettable that the Moon administration contributed to a dramatic downgrade of our hard-earned national image through its failure to manage the situation. The foreign press points to a sixfold increase in the number of infected people in just four days. CNN reported that Korea has become the most infected country after China. Is that really what the Blue House wants?

The Israeli government even turned back a Korean passenger plane. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a tightened travel caution for U.S. citizens. Taiwan raised its travel advisory to its people by two notches, while Vietnam and Thailand canceled passenger flights to Korea.

Korea has suddenly become a country avoided by other countries despite all the work to improve its international image, including the winning of Academy Awards by the movie “Parasite.” The government must reflect on what it did wrong and sincerely apologize.

Medical experts warned that the coronavirus could spread from people without symptoms. The government paid no heed. Since the outbreak has entered a new phase, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must take a new approach. At the same time, each citizen must strictly follow our health authorities’ guidelines.