March 26, 2020 13:16
Singapore recently decided to halt the treatment of foreign patients in public and private hospitals there so it can save limited resources to prepare for a possible surge in coronavirus infections among its own citizens. From Wednesday, Hong Kong banned all foreign visitors, including transit passengers. Even Chinese, Taiwanese and Macanese passport holders are banned if they traveled abroad recently. Earlier, Taiwan and Singapore banned all foreign visitors and transiting through its airports. The countries are now viewed as models of effective responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
Korea is virtually alone in sticking solely to quarantine measures while keeping its borders wide open, to say nothing of using taxpayers' money to cover the medical costs of foreign COVID-19 patients who arrive here. At present, some 3,000 people arrive in Korea from Europe and the U.S. every day, and it costs billions of won to cover the costs of testing, temporary lodging and hospitalization if test come out positive. No foreign country has asked the government to do this. The government claims that an effective defense against transmission is to treat everyone equally, but that is nonsense. Banning foreigners would save enormous public resources.
It is not hard to see why the government is doing this. It simply does not want to admit its earlier mistake of not banning Chinese visitors altogether for fear of agitating Beijing and pouring cold water on prospects of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul. Its logic is that the entire world has banned travelers from Korea, so Korea does not need to enforce any travel bans of its own.
The number of confirmed cases keeps rising rapidly among travelers from Europe and the U.S. This puts enormous strain on the country's medical resources. Yet the government continues stubbornly insists on quarantine measures that are pushing medical workers to the edge. Indeed, it downscaled entry screening of all travelers from Europe on arrival after just two days because there were simply too many of them. The miscalculations simply keep piling up.
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