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Strict measures won’t work if the borders remain open

Posted February. 25, 2020 07:32,   

Updated February. 25, 2020 07:32


COVID-19 continues to spread even though the coronavirus alert was raised to the highest level, increasing the number of confirmed cases to about 760 and fatalities to seven. Not only the military but also the police and the prosecution have been affected by the virus while public services are slowly but surely being paralyzed after it was confirmed that a member of the National Assembly came into close contact with a patient.

The government announced Monday its special plan that aims at containing the spread of the coronavirus within four weeks. The plan is basically to check all the 28,000 Daegu citizens who have symptoms of a cold. The government advised citizens in Daegu to stay at home and avoid sharing food in closed spaces such as wedding hall. Even though it was “advice,” it will certainly constrain the day-to-day life of the people living in Daegu. The plan also includes other strict measures such as banning group activities, gatherings and religious services, restricting the use of public transport, shutting down large buildings and encouraging working from home.

Due to the lack of consistency, however, the government measures have left many citizens confused. For instance, the start of the school has been postponed by one week while many cram schools, which are denser than public schools, are still up and running because they are unaffected by the government measure.

Such inconsistency is even more pronounced in the government’s immigration policy. While the lives of Korean citizens are affected by the government measures, almost nothing has been done about Chinese people entering the country. To be sure, most of the confirmed cases are linked to Shincheonji, a religious cult. However, if the borders remain open to China, the risk will continue to lurk even after the current crisis dies down. The 19,000 Chinese students who will soon come back to South Korea might not pose as serious a threat because they will be quarantined in separate dorm buildings, but there is no measure in place for other people coming from China.

While the South Korean government is being indecisive about the entry ban, seven countries have imposed the ban on South Koreans. This cannot help but beg the question if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is appropriately responding to the crisis. It would be ideal if a disease can be contained without closing the borders. However, it would be overconfident of the government to let possible spreaders into the country when it is not equipped to deal with the consequences. The government should remember that inconsistent measures will cost the public trust, which is the strongest coronavirus defense.