Another worldwide pandemic is imminent: following MERS and SARS, a previously unknown and unidentified disease has now been declared a Global Health Emergency by the World Health Organization. The Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China in late December of 2019. Previously labeled a mysterious disease, the virus was not given much attention until several cases of deaths were reported to the Chinese government— 213 out of the approximate 9800 affected.
The virus appears to have started in a Wuhan seafood market which sells wild animals including birds, snakes, and bats. As the Coronavirus jumps from animals to humans, people suspect that the first infected group of people ate cooked bats with the virus bought from the seafood market. Afterward, said people obliviously lived and traveled as usual, spreading the virus to all over Wuhan and the rest of China. Since then, China has closed off its borders, not letting anyone in or out. China is taking a hardline stance on this issue by completely closing off transportation not only in Wuhan, but in many other regions as well. As a result, the citizens left in Wuhan are left without enough food sources or methods of protection against the disease such as masks. Citizens of Wuhan have, however, departed the country beforehand during the Lunar New Year, spreading the disease to nations over the globe, including the United States, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.
Currently, there are 11 infected people in South Korea: seven who have recently traveled to Wuhan, and four who have received the disease secondhand. The infected are currently kept isolated in hospitals and are receiving close treatment and care by medical experts. The virus is spreading rapidly throughout Korea, with more and more cases of infection reported each day. Numerous emergency health messages were sent to the entire population, igniting general public panic regarding the virus. Public areas such as movie theaters, amusement parks, and even restaurants are left empty due to the collective fear of being infected while outside, hand sanitizer and mask prices are at an all-time high as the demand continues to increase, universities and schools are delaying their starts to the school year, and citizens are continuously receiving updates on infection rates and numbers.
President Moon Jae-in constantly reminds the nation not to be worried as the government has adequate protection mechanisms. Many were, however, angered by the government’s response to this pandemic as they felt that Moon’s administration is not doing enough for the nation. Citizens of South Korea compare Moon’s lack of response and initiative to combat the Coronavirus with former president Park Geun-hye’s attitude towards the MERS pandemic. A national petition, which reached over 400,000 signatures, was drafted arguing for restrictions on Chinese travel to South Korea and is still not being implemented by Moon. Instead, he has provided China with funds up to $5 million and necessary supplies including 2 million masks, calling them a “friend in need of help,” sparking controversy among the South Korean public.
Although death rates for the Coronavirus are currently lower than SARS or MERS, this disease is not to be thought of lightly. Symptoms of this disease include headaches, coughing, high fevers, and frequent vomiting. These continue to difficulties with breathing, ultimately resulting in deaths due to respiratory distress. During times of international health pandemics and crises, prevention and safety are the utmost necessities to block the endless spreading of this global plague.