Hundreds of new COVID-19 cases are being confirmed every day in South Korea. The number of confirmed patients surged since Patient No. 31 was confirmed on February 18, and the latest number hit 3,736 people on Sunday. In Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, a prison inmate has been confirmed as a patient, while in Gyeongsan, a 45-day-old baby has also contracted the infectious coronavirus, escalating concern over the epidemic.
Considering the trend of local transmission in communities and the high transmissibility of COVID-19, the current epidemic is less likely to end any time soon. The South Korean health authorities have also started preparations for a longer term war. The authorities, which struggled due to a lack of hospital beds, began to come up with countermeasures from Sunday, including the opening of makeshift treatment facilities for mildly ill patients. The authorities will use facilities such as training centers and human resource development centers, and utilize telemedicine to prevent the medical system from being overburdened and to minimize healthcare vacuum.
The Central Clinical Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases held a press conference on Sunday where it made suggestions on the reallocation of insufficient hospital beds, a patient transfer system, easing of the guidelines for discharging of treated patients, the standard for home treatment, and management and prevention of recurrence after discharge. The committee urged the government to set priorities, including transition of patients with mild symptoms from hospital to home for self-quarantine and treatment, to ensure efficient use of medical resources.
Citizens should also prepare themselves for a long-term combat for their part. Each citizen is subjected to quarantine but they can and should also be an implementer of quarantine measures. In this regard, “keep your social distance” campaign that is being recommended by the medical community should be a guiding principle of daily living for all people for the time being. "The period through the first 10 days of March is an important watershed for the current epidemic," the quarantine authorities including the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. "Please follow the rules of personal hygiene and participate in ‘keep social distance’ campaign at various meetings, rituals, and religious events."
Practicing thorough personal quarantine does not mean that you should be constantly anxious and slumped in your daily life. For example, if a childcare center chooses to close immediately only because a patient has occurred in the community, or if the school or kindergarten chooses to close classes just because a person who has been in contact with another person who was in contact with a patient, vacuum in childcare service will most likely occur.
The Code of Conduct for the Public also needs to be improved and updated in preparation for a prolonged war against COVID-19. The South Korean government and the healthcare industry should check to see whether there are any rules deemed excessive or difficult to follow in the long term among the standards and guidelines including closures, reporting and isolation of various facilities and establishments, that were set at the beginning of the epidemics. Excessive anxiety and overreacting should be avoided. Human beings have been fighting virus throughout its history, and never lost.