A quick spread of the novel coronavirus from China to all over the world is creating panic. In Korea, groundless rumors and regional self-centeredness are aggravating the situation, healthcare officials say.
China’s National Health Commission reported 7,736 confirmed cases and 170 deaths as of 10 a.m. on Thursday. Korea’s number of confirmed patients remained at four.
With the rapid increase in the number of confirmed patients and deaths in China, fears are growing. News reports said residents of Wuhan, where the first case of the new coronavirus was reported, were banished from all cities in China. In some parts of China, residents held guns to stop Wuhan residents from entering the town and blocked a tunnel that leads to Hubei Province.
|The left photo shows a Chinese man with a gun keeps Wuhan residents from entering his village. In the right, Chinese people blocked a tunnel that leads to Hubei Province where Wuhan is located. (Credit: Apple Daily)|
The Korean public responded similarly to the virus outbreak. As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, almost 600,000 Koreans have signed an online petition calling for a ban on Chinese people entering Korea. Conservative politicians and physicians voiced for the entry ban as well.
After the government said that Korea would bring back about 700 Korean evacuees on charter planes and have them quarantined in Asan, South Chungcheon Province, and Jincheon, North Chungbuk Province, residents of the two cities fiercely opposed to the plan, blocking roads near the designated sites for quarantine with tractors and other vehicles. Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Kang-lip, who visited the locations to persuade residents, faced a vehement protest and got doused with water.
|Residents protest the government’s decision to have Korean people from Wuhan quarantined in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, and Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province. (Captured from an MBC TV news footage)
A Korean who lives in Wuhan said, “I know how Korean people see us, so I gave up getting on the chartered flight.”
“This shows how fears of the new infectious disease create more problems than the virus. In the 2015 outbreak of MERS, people barred children of doctors and nurses from going to the school,” said Eom Joong-sik, a professor at the Internal Medicine Department at Gachon University Gil Medical Center. “Excessive fear, hatred, and discrimination are more serious problems than the new coronavirus.”
|Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Kang-lip struggles during a visit to Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, to persuade residents on Wednesday. (Captured from an SBS news clip)
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