[COVID-19 Spread Again] A warning from Korea University Professor Kim Woo-joo, the Best Infectious Disease Expert in Korea
“The fundamental cause of the second wave of COVID-19 is the failure of the government’s quarantine policy. Without reflection on it, witch-hunting certain groups in each crisis will only bring about another crisis.”
Kim Woo-joo <Photo> The infectious medicine professor at Korea University, Guro Hospital, said this in an interview on the 18th about the recent re-spreading of the coronavirus in the areas surrounding Seoul. He warned, “The government must now honestly admit mistakes to the public and raise the level of response to the infectious disease. Otherwise, a second coronavirus pandemic cannot be stopped.”
Professor Kim, who served as the chairman of the Korean Infectious Diseases Association (2013~2015), is considered the nation’s top authority in the field of infectious diseases. Starting from the time of the Roh Moo-hyun administration as a government advisory committee for the response to SARS outbreak in 2003, he served as a government advisory committee whenever infectious diseases such as the avian influenza in 2004 and swine flu in 2009 broke out. During the 2015 MERS outbreak (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), he was the co-chair of the government-private joint countermeasure group.
Professor Kim pointed to the government’s multiple, flawed policies that were rolled out simultaneously as the fundamental cause of the recent re-spreading of the metropolitan area. First of all, from July 24th, the ban on small gatherings such as church groups was lifted and the limited admission of spectators in sporting events was allowed. On top of this, the government announced to give out coupons for eateries and concert events that can be used starting August 14th, aiming to revive the sluggish consumer confidence. Professor Kim said, “When the government announced that it would allow small church gatherings and spread coupons for eating out, it gave a kind of signal to the people that they no longer need to be cautious.”
He also criticized the fact that specific groups, such as Sarang Jeil Church, were recently pointed out as the cause of the re-spreading of the virus. Professor Kim said, “As soon as holes were exposed in the quarantine effort, the government immediately attacked specific groups. It is the same as targeting Shincheonji Church and the Itaewon gay club during the early spread of COVID-19.” He said, “The root cause of repeated crises is the government’s effort to wrap up the crises by putting the blame on a specific group each time, and not properly diagnosing the actual problem in the quarantine system.”
Professor Kim also said that the government’s recent implementation of “level 2” social distance guidelines was also problematic, though it was quickly done. Imposing “level 2” social distancing should have banned gatherings of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors on principle, but the government only made it a “recommendation to refrain.” Professor Kim said, “Not only is it not enough, but there is a bigger problem in that the government changed its own principle set by itself. If the manual changes at will, how can anyone trust and follow the government?” Regarding the necessary countermeasures in the current situation, Professor Kim said, “The government should raise it to ‘Level 3’ in social distancing, such as banning gatherings of more than 10 people. At the same time, it should honestly acknowledge the past mistakes and seek help from the people.”
[Reporter Lee Hae-in]