The streets in Daegu are empty since people do not go outside with the fear of being infected with Novel Coronavirus.
/Photography from Park
At the end of last December 2019, a new virus broke out in Wuhan, China. The virus has symptoms similar to those of a cold. However, this virus was confirmed to be a virus like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) that put the world at risk in the past. This new virus has come to be called “Novel Coronavirus.” Worst of all, the virus has spread throughout the world, not just in the area where it first occurred. Therefore, the whole world is on alert for the virus and is working hard to develop vaccines. When we turn on the TV, it only talks about Coronavirus. As such, Coronavirus is a serious problem that humans face now.
COVID-19 first symptom is similar to a cold but even more fatal
The reason why Coronavirus got this name is the shape of the virus. The virus is a crown-like protruding protuberance, so the word “Corona,” which means crown in Latin, was used. Previously, there were a total of six kinds of Coronavirus including four types of virus, similar to the common cold, and two fatal virus which is SARS and MERS Coronavirus. This newly broken virus is called “Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)” and World Health Organization (WHO) called the disease caused by the virus, “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).” Noh June-mo, a doctor of SeoulChuk Hospital, said, “As the name suggests, it is a respiratory disease that is accompanied by a fever caused by a Novel Coronavirus that has not been reported until now.” He added, “It is a disease that occurs when viruses that live in wild animals pass over to humans and affect each other and become completely new viruses and penetrate into the human immune system.” If one is infected with Coronavirus, he/she will go through an incubation period of about two to 14 days, followed by respiratory symptoms such as fever, coughing or a difficulty with breathing and pneumonia. Rare as it is, however, there are non-symptomatic infections.
Then, why is this Novel Coronavirus dangerous? First, its mutation probability is 1,000 times higher than other usual viruses. It means the beginning of its symptom is a simple cold but it soon evolves into high pathogenic virus which is capable of rapid spreading. Such viruses were SARS and MERS. Also, COVID-19 is estimated to have low fatality rate that is only about one digit. However, this low fatality rate makes a longer incubation period and spreads to more places. In fact, the fatality rate of the 1918 Spanish flu was about two percent, but more than 25 million people died from it. As such, a low fatality rate is by no means it is not a danger. Rather, it may bring a bigger catastrophe.
There are two hypotheses about the cause of Coronavirus
There are two hypotheses explaining the cause of Novel Coronavirus. The first hypothesis is that humans were infected by animals. In Wuhan, the first outbreak site of 2019-nCoV, there is a market where people trade wild animals. It is assumed that the traded wild animal was infected with 2019-nCoV, acting as an intermediate host, and that the virus got to spread through people. Noh June-mo said, “Until now, wild animals, especially snakes, bats, and astrologers, have been reported as host stocks. Historically, it seems most likely that it was caused by one of the wild animals.”
On the other hand, the second hypothesis is quite different from the first one. Foreign media mainly reported that Novel Coronavirus may have developed from virus mutations leaked from a microbial research facility. This microbial research facility is the “Wuhan Institute of Virology” where researchers are dealing with high-risk microbes such as Ebola virus and Hantavirus. Therefore, some scientists claim that 2019-nCoV was first leaked from this facility. Moreover, the market and the institute are only 20 miles away, raising doubts and strengthening the ground.
However, it is not yet clear how Novel Coronavirus first infected humans. Noh June-mo said, “It is still frustrating that the initial cause of the 2019-nCoV is not clear. Only when it is clearly revealed could we figure out the path of infection, so that we could control it and stop it from spreading quickly.”
There are some reasons why Coronavirus spread in the beginning
In December, 2019, Li Wenliang, a Chinese doctor warned on Weibo that he found symptoms similar to SARS from 7 patients and he isolated them. However, the Wuhan government forced him to sign a statement that it was a fault information. Later the government apologized to him for their pressure. Likewise, during the early phase of infection, China banned the broadcasting about COVID-19 and restricted SNS where people criticize about the response of the government. As such, Chinese government concealed the outbreak of COVID-19.
WHO, which should have been sensitive and careful about the outbreak of viruses and diseases, also made a wrong decision in the beginning. WHO declared a state of emergency too late, saying COVID-19 is spreading across the world. Also, at first, WHO did not restrict international travels or trades. Some people argue that WHO is watching out for China because China invested 600 million Yuan in WHO.
Korea is suffering from a constant coronavirus
The Chinese government sealed off the Wuhan area on January 23rd. However, before the blockade, five million people, half of Wuhan’s population, had already moved away from Wuhan. Among them, more than 6,000 people entered Korea. On January 20th, Korea had its first confirmed case. She is a Chinese woman in her 30s and came to Korea with an infection. Even after the warning against COVID-19 began in Korea, some people who visited Wuhan wandered around Gangnam and Ilsan until they received a definite diagnosis, which caused the virus to spread in Korea. As a result, on January 30th, the first secondary infection occurred. He was infected by the third confirmed case.
Hence, the “N”th infection continued, but there were signs that the coronavirus would subside. However, about the end of February, the number of confirmed cases in Daegu has skyrocketed. Sincheonji, a pseudo-religion, worshipped in Daegu and most of them were infected. As a result, the number of confirmed cases in Daegu and the surrounding Gyeongsangbuk-do Province has increased steadily. By current standards, Daegu has the largest number of Corona confirmed cases, accounting for about 65 percent of the total. Kim Min-ju, a resident of Gumi-city, Gyeongsangbuk-do, said, “I think the current COVID-19 has caused the low employment rate to drop even further. I am looking for a job, but there are few jobs and companies do not hire me since I am from Gyeongsangbuk-do.” She also added, “Because of COVID-19, I was reluctant to meet friends and I was scared to go out, so I was bored and lost my fun. I hope the virus to disappear and we can talk to people face to face again.”
On February 23rd, after group infection of Shincheonji, the government upgraded its response level to “serious” from “alert” level. This has made it possible for the government to take the highest level of response to force on school closures or banning collective events. Therefore, the government recommended that groups such as religious activities be restrained to minimize contact with the outside. Therefore, lots of churches canceled the worship or held it online. However, some still enforced worship at church, which was criticized by many people. In the result, a group infection occurred at a church in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
Before Seongnam’s infection, there also was a group infection in Seoul. It occurred at the call center in Guro-gu. So far, about 90 confirmed cases have been verified. The infection was caused by the nature of the job that uses a microphone and is difficult to use a face mask. The infection of the Guro call center posed a major threat to Seoulites, as it is located in a large-scale building and employees mainly use public transportation. Song Hee, a resident of Mok-dong, said, “When the first confirmed case in Guro-gu was verified, I thought it was really close to me because it was a near place and transportation from Guro to Mok-dong is good. It really made me nervous then.” She also added, “I realized this is much bigger and more serious problem than when the number of confirmed cases surged in Daegu and I was much more anxious.”
Infection continues to occur in Daegu, with no time to calm down. In Dalseong County’s hospital, there is a constant stream of confirmed cases every day. More than 240 confirmed cases were confirmed at a convalescent hospital and psychiatric hospital, which is in the same building. The figure is two times higher than the 120 confirmed cases of Cheongdo Daenam hospital, which is cited as a representative case of a group infection. Also, in another convalescent hospital in Seo-gu, more than 120 confirmed cases were reported. Since it was a facility where many people lived, group infections occurred constantly. Park(22), a resident of Daegu, said, “I think the convalescent hospital and psychiatric hospital staffs need to be more careful while and even after working because they keep in touch in the same space as patients.” She also added, “It would be nice for everyone to make efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus while campaigning social distancing. I hope that the Corona ends as soon as possible and we get to return to normal life.”
Recently, the government sent chartered flights to other countries to bring Korean residents living abroad and students studying abroad. Those who enter from foreign countries have to quarantine themselves for two weeks. The Seoul government has set up a large-scale overseas immigration inspecting center at Jamsil Sports Complex to test all foreign residents.
The numbers that tell us the seriousness of the Coronavirus are getting worse day by day
In Korea, the number of confirmed case reached about 10,500 in total. The number of deaths totaled about 200, which is disastrous. The only good news is that the number of complete healers is also increasing. Also, the increase in the number of daily confirmed cases in Korea is also decreasing compared to the past when the added number of confirmed cases per day almost always reached triple digit. However, we must not let our guard down.
In cases of other countries, especially Europe and the United States, the situation is much more serious than our country. In the early days of the virus, there were fewer confirmed cases in Europe and the United States, and few countries reported deaths. However, suddenly, the number of confirmed case increased rapidly. Statistically, the United States, Italy, and Spain have the largest number of confirmed cases, which is even more than China’s. Especially in Italy, the death toll was over 10,000, which was the world’s first. This means that more than 10 percent of the confirmed cases died. Besides Italy and Spain, the number of confirmed cases in major European countries such as Germany, France, United Kingdom and Switzerland continues to rise, increasing by three or four digits compared to the previous day. The reason why there are so many infected people is that they do not wear face masks, since face mask is uncomfortable. The United States is the country with the largest number of COVID-19 patients. The number of confirmed cases jumped 20 times in 13 days after 10,000 confirmed cases were verified in the United States.
In the case of Japan, the number of confirmed cases was about 3,000 at the end of March. Considering geographical proximity to China, 3,000 is small amount. The reason for the small number appears to be the result of intensive testing by only those who are more likely to be infected. Japan has been criticized by other countries that they carried out few tests. Even in Tokyo, the capital, the number of daily tests was only around 100 at the end of March. Regarding this, there are many conspiracies that the Japanese government is deliberately reducing the number of confirmed people to force the hosting of the Olympics. However, even the Olympics has been postponed until next year, they still test a little. As to this, The Nikkei, Japan’s authority journal, pointed out the status of Japan, that the number of tests has never exceeded 2,000 per day.
However, in April, the number of confirmed cases in Japan has also increased rapidly, with more than 500 confirmed cases per day. Now, there are about 4,700 confirmed cases in Japan. She should not intentionally avoid tests.
There are lots of people whose efforts make Korea respond well to COVID-19
Although COVID-19 state became serious, people in the United States and Europe rarely wear face masks in public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that if you are not sick, you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick. Also, the United States is lack of diagnostic kits and European Union (EU) countries have not shared enough information related to COVID-19 with each other.
Meanwhile, many foreign medical experts appraised Korea’s COVID-19 diagnostic ability. It could be possible thanks to the efforts of many people contributed to active reponse. First, a lot of bio companies quickly made efforts to develop kits which confirmCOVID-19. They are now exporting those diagnostic kits to help other countries. Second, Korean Center for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) quickly approved emergent use of diagnostic kits. Third, a mass of medical teams are working for patients and suspected infectees. Korea is using drive through COVID-19 testing facilities which received much attention for short inspection time and comfort. Also, it minimize the contact with each other. Finally, most of Koreans definitely wear face masks in accordance with government’s guidelines.
Before the five-day rotation system for mask distribution was introduced, a lot of people lined up to buy masks to prevent COVID-19.
/Photography from Lim, a resident of Mok-dong
COVID-19 affected our daily lives seriously
Some people made contents with a controversial thumbnail image to attract attention and raise views. By shouting about false information as if it were true, the contents spread fear among people. More seriously, certain thoughtless Youtube channels placed a hidden camera to observe the response of citizens after pretending confirmed patients are running away from the medical team.
Kang Young-joo, the sophomore of Division of Communications and Media of Seoul Women’s University, said, “It is wrong to confuse people with provocative contents as COVID-19 is a serious problem all around the world and many people are scared of it. I think such people are abusing the current trend that information is easily spread through SNS and internet and fake news can be released as if it were true.” She added, “Those contents are problematic as people are more vulnerable and reactive to provocative contents. However, since people have experienced such thoughtless acts, now they became more skeptical about fake news. I hope people always accept such information objectively. Also, news should treat these situations with responsibility so that people can focus more on ‘real’ news.”
As a face mask is essential to prevent COVID-19, some ignoble people cornered mass of face masks to make unfair profits. Therefore, the government implemented “five-day rotation system for face mask distribution” from March 9th. Shin Ji-yeoun, a pharmacist, mentioned about this system “It is desirable that this distribution system prevents large purchase. However, since we should firmly keep government’s guidelines, we sometimes have troubles with some customers. It is tough for pharmacists since we must face them but there are also many people who understand our states.” She added, “Currently, it became possible for people to buy face masks anytime as five-day rotation system settled down. I think it is such a positive system, though it still should be reinforced.”
Park Da-hyeon, the sophomore of College of Buddhist Studies, said, “At first, I did not care about COVID-19 because I thought this epidemic disease could be treated soon. However, these days I am so worried as the number of patients and fatality is growing. I rarely wore a face mask even when the fine dust was bad but now, I always wear a face mask.” She added, “I am so sad since cherry blossoms and lotus lanterns at Dongguk University are really beautiful around this time of the year but I cannot go to school. Online lecture is convenient but communicating with professors and friends is hard because although I try to communicate by chatting, delays interrupt me. I really hope this COVID-19 state to improve soon and people may go out without wearing face masks.” Considering current circumstances, Yoo Eun-hye, the Minister of Education recommended each university take cyber lecture in autonomically decided ways until COVID-19 state becomes stable. As a result, a lot of universities take cyber lectures. Also, elementary, middle and high schools started a new semester online from April 9th and daycare centers are closed.
Since COVID-19 occurred in China, a lot of people are openly expressing hatred against Asians. Those people yelled at or even assaulted Asians on the street. As a result, most Asians have no choice but to stay at home or return to their countries. Against this racial discrimination, hashtag activism #Iamnotavirus arised.
Lee Yu-hyun, the junior of Global School of Media of Soongsil University, was upset about hatred against Asians, saying “It is not logical at all to show hatred against Asians just because they look like Chinese. I think those racists actually know that most Asians are innocent, but just want to take out their frustration of not being able to freely go out on Asians. Therefore, has tag movement such as #Iamnotavirus is meaningful in that it opposes those twisted thoughts.” She also added, “However, I would say it is important to stop hating Chinese at the same time. One of my acquaintances excessively cursed not only Novel Coronavirus but also Chinese, which made me so uncomfortable.”
For protection of nationals, more and more countries are forbidding or restricting foreigners’ entry. Lee Chae-yeon, a student studying abroad in the Department of Commercial Science of Kansai University in Japan, said, “I am a freshman who is going to enter a university in Japan this year. School is scheduled to open a course in late April, but it has become impossible for me to go to Japan due to the entry ban by the Japanese government. Even, Embassy of Japan in Korea suspended the examination of issuance of overseas study visa.” She added, “In my case, I have a house in Japan, but I cannot move in, which means I am wasting money.”
There are lots of medical teams throughout the country who are working day and night for patients. As they wear anti-contamination clothing, goggles and face masks, they are all wet with sweat. After large-scale infection occurred in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do, many physicians were voluntarily dispatched to hospitals in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do despite the danger of infection. Many people and even patients are cheering these medical heroes up for their hard works.
There are typically two prevention methods, wearing face masks and washing hands. The purpose of wearing face masks is first to block droplets and second is to prevent hands from touching one’s nose or mouth. Dr. Noh advised, “The most secure prevention methods are wearing face masks and washing hands in the running water for more than 30 seconds. Also, the old, the weak, and children who have weak immune systems should not go to the public gathering places.” Regarding hand sanitizers, only hand sanitizers which contain 70% or more alcohol are effective.
In order not to worsen current COVID-19 state, “social distancing” and “wearing a face mask” are essential. Although it is a little uncomfortable, people should thoroughly follow “social distancing campaign” for each other including the exhausted medical teams.
Lee Da-young, Lee Su-yeon firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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