South Korea’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) remains at 28 as of Friday with no additional cases reported for four days. Seven of them have been discharged from the hospital and 21 are in a stable condition except for one patient, who is being treated for pneumonia. About 800 are being tested every day since the number of suspected patients has been on the rise from a week ago, but additional cases have not been reported despite concerns. Among some 700 Korean evacuees from Wuhan, who have been under isolation in facilities in Asan and Jincheon, the first 367 evacuees are being released from isolation today after testing negative for COVID-19.
South Korea’s health authorities say it is too early to be optimistic since the outbreak is yet to subside. But they are responding well to the situation compared to China, whose report of death toll is raising suspicion or Japan, whose containment measures for its cruise ship failed. The death toll from COVID-19 stands at 1,380 in China with the number of confirmed cases hitting 63,851 as of Saturday midnight. The confirmed cases in Japan rose to 247 including those infected on the cruise ship (218). A woman in her 80s died from COVID-19 on Thursday, Japan’s first confirmed fatality, and a medical doctor has been reportedly infected.
It appears the South Korean government is controlling the situation well although there was confusion early on due to its initial muted response to combat COVID-19. The infectious disease outbreak has become an opportunity to realize the importance of practicing personal hygiene to prevent the spread of an infectious disease that does not have a vaccine or a cure. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and flu has reduced greatly as people started to wear a mask in public and wash their hands frequently. We need to practice personal hygiene, including washing hands frequently, coughing into upper sleeve, and avoiding sharing food from the same plate to prevent virus infection. Our corporate culture needs to be changed so that those who have symptoms can take days off work without hesitation.
With the COVID-19 outbreak in China likely to continue for a prolonged period, it is likely to take a toll on the South Korean economy. The nation’s once-bustling markets and restaurants are almost empty due to a drop in tourist arrivals and the floricultural industry is hit by the cancellation of graduation and entrance ceremonies. These impacts will be reflected in economic indexes at home and abroad, which will be released after Monday. The government should do its best to minimize the virus’s impact on the economy and the public, on their part, should follow the government’s quarantine guidelines and, at the same time, help revitalize the economy by going back to business-as-usual, such as going to school, doing groceries, and going to festivals.