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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 21)

All News 07:04 February 21, 2020

Virus spreading locally
Measures needed urgently to stabilize situation in Daegu

The new coronavirus is spreading locally at an alarming pace. On Thursday, the health authorities confirmed 53 new cases of the deadly virus, bring the total number of infections here to 104.

What is happening in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province is particularly serious. Over the past two days, 70 people have been confirmed to have been infected just in that region alone, with most of them reportedly linked to a 61-year-old woman living in Daegu, who attended a church service, and visited a hotel and a clinic center in the city despite showing symptoms before testing positive as the nation's 31st patient, Tuesday.

It is not hard to imagine how the affected communities feel about the alleged "super spreader." The southeastern city and surrounding areas are now in a state of panic. The streets have become quiet and the places she visited, including the church, have been temporarily closed. It is apparent that she disregarded the government's guidance that those who show any symptoms should report to the authorities immediately and voluntarily quarantine themselves at home. Thus, she victimized people around her. She didn't care about herself ― or others.

This case proves that, in fighting a virus, all the preventive measures implemented by the administration become useless if people with symptoms don't follow the regulations. What is most important is to realize that anyone can contract and spread the virus.

Shockingly however, there was the news that some elders of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, where the 31st patient attended a service with hundreds of other people Feb. 9, asked the congregation to lie if the health authorities contacted them for virus checks. According to a "response manual" posted on the church's online community, members were asked to lie to health officials about their attendance at the service and to say they were not in the church when the patient was there; something that stretches credulity. This was apparently to protect the church, but they should know that this blatant lie endangers the lives of not only the congregants but their neighbors.

The authorities said it is still unclear how the 31st patient contracted the virus as she had no contact with other confirmed patients nor had she been abroad recently. She allegedly came into contact with more than 160 people while symptomatic.

From now on, the government must focus on stabilizing the situation in Daegu and adjacent areas. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will deploy 24 specialized doctors to Daegu and increase the number of virus-testing centers to 22. However, it fell short of raising the level of alert regarding the virus spread, saying, "The spread is limited at this stage."

All measures should be effective and adequate. The country's fight against the new virus has most certainly entered a critical phase.

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