More Stringent Travel Restrictions Needed as Coronavirus Spreads

      February 10, 2020 13:40

      Korea now has its first confirmed coronavirus infections by people who had traveled to a part of China other than Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The patients are a husband and wife who returned from a trip to the southern Chinese province of Guangdong from November 2019 to late January this year. All 11 patients here who were infected in China had been living in or visiting Wuhan.

      But it was just a matter of time for infections to be reported from other parts of China. As of last week, 26 percent of all confirmed infections in China were reported outside Hubei, with 1,131 in Guangdong, 1,075 in Zhejiang and 1,033 in Hainan. The number of confirmed cases in Guangdong alone is 40 times higher than in Korea, which means the new coronavirus has spread to every corner of the province.

      But the government here only bans visitors from Hubei, and even that only since Feb. 4, 15 days after the first infection was reported here and the Chinese government put the whole province into lockdown. The entry ban was both belated and timid for fear of upsetting the Chinese government. Yet the Chinese government itself essentially put 420 million people under house arrest, in some cases using chains to seal their doors. All the Korean government is doing is checking the temperatures of incoming visitors at airports. There are still more than 5,000 arrivals from China every day.

      A new confirmed case, a visitor from Wuhan, last week forced the closure of a major department store in downtown Seoul frequented by 100,000 customers a day. President Moon Jae-in claimed that Korea "can overcome this disease." But in order to do that the government needs to be more nimble and decisive.

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