The fear towards the new coronavirus is flagging down our society as the 16th patient was confirmed in Korea on Tuesday. It is slowing down domestic consumption, exports and tourism and causing gaps in child and senior care system. In addition, there has been a sharp drop in the number of blood donors, which is creating concerns on blood supply.
Some 10 percent of 37,000 childcare centers across the country started a recess on Monday. Double-income families or single parents are having troubles to find a place to find a childcare service. Kindergartens and primary and secondary schools are also cutting down class hours or having a recess. The government provides emergency childcare service for those who are having difficulties, but it is hard for them to catch up with the exponentially growing demand. Children are recommended to be taken care of at home rather than in facilities as they are more vulnerable to diseases. Therefore, the government should actively recommend businesses to allow parents who raise children to work from home or go on holidays and provide systematic support.
When there is a national crisis, the most vulnerable groups bear the brunt of it. The government expanded Tuesday its standard of 14-day holiday for workers to those who visited China from those who visited China’s Hubei province. There are gaps in elderly care facilities where many Koreans residing in China work, and senior citizens and the disabled have nowhere to go now as community centers closed. Elders who live alone or homeless persons are skipping meals because understaffed free meal services also closed. Those are inevitable measures to prevent the contagious coronavirus, but they should not break down social safety nets.
Socially vulnerable groups who cannot afford mouth masks are bound to be exposed to infectious diseases when social safety nets fail to protect them. To minimize the damage on people’s daily lives, the government needs to expand telecommuting and childcare services, allocating human resources and budgets to child- and elderly- care, providing masks and hand sanitizers among other measures. It is time for the government to show its ability to properly care for citizens in the face of a national disaster.