Gov't Must Face up to Severity of Coronavirus Threat

      February 06, 2020 13:32

      Countries around the world are restricting the entry of Chinese visitors due to the rapid spread of coronavirus from its epicenter in Wuhan, China. Two giant cruise ships lie marooned off Hong Kong and Japan with 5,300 passengers on board, including several Koreans. The U.K. on Wednesday advised around 30,000 of its citizens to leave China, the first country to do so, and France has followed suit.

      Among Korean patients, four became infected outside China. The government has been focusing on visitors from China's Hubei Province surrounding Wuhan, but it can no longer overlook those coming in from other Asian regions as well. One infected patient here apparently came into contact with more than 600 people before being quarantined, and another with more than 300 people in a single hospital. The virus could yet develop into a pandemic.

      The number of infections in China is surging at a dizzying rate, growing by almost 4,000 in a single day and bringing the total to more than 24,000 at the last count, 500 of whom have died over the span of just 15 days. Another 3,200 are in serious condition. Chinese authorities locked down the entire city of Wuhan and ordered residents of large cities in Zhejiang Province with populations of 10 million people to stay home. Only one person per family there is allowed to go outside once every two days to buy necessities.

      But even as China is ordering lockdowns on its own people it accuses foreign countries banning entry to its citizens of "overreacting." The Chinese ambassador to Korea tried to pressure the government here by saying travel bans are "unnecessary," even though China's ambassador to Japan has asked the government there for help and admitted Beijing's inability to stem the spread of the new virus. But the government seems to be bending over backward to avoid agitating China. It is reluctant to expand quarantine to arrivals from parts of China other than Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, although the situation is getting worse. It is simply saying it will monitor situations in regions outside Hubei and China as a whole and take "necessary" measures without actually doing anything. The government will only prove its incompetence once again if it fails to deal with this crisis in a timely and effective manner.

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