COVID-19 is a respiratory infectious disease that has spread worldwide since the first mass outbreak of mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. This caused the whole world to tremble in fear and stop all social life. It has been just over 150 days since the coronavirus outbreak was officially reported. As of May 14, the cumulative number of confirmed cases around the world has reached nearly 4.4 million, and the death toll has exceeded 300,000 worldwide. The World Health Organization has declared it a ‘pandemic’ which corresponds to the highest risk rating out of all of the epidemic alert stages. However, it can be seen that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Korea decreased significantly at the end of April. South Korea's transparent, systematic response and advanced medical system have been attracting international attention. The Chonnam Tribune interviewed four students about South Korea's COVID-19 response and their own countries’ respective response.
What do you think about Korea's coronavirus response?
Ding Jiaqi (China): I think Korea's response to the coronavirus is okay. People wear masks when they go outside and they usually work at home. The Korean government ordered foreign arrivals from Europe and the U.S., where the COVID-19 situation has become serious, to self-quarantine for two weeks. However, it would be better to manage that part intensively because we cannot confirm whether overseas arrivals really do self-quarantine.
Nikolai Willer Svendsen (Denmark): I think Korea is one of the best countries when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. Foreign media are all looking at Korea and watching as if to imply "this is what other countries should do to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus and how to minimize the possibility of infection." In addition, public institutions are required to use hand sanitizers to enter high traffic areas, and the government continues to send disaster text messages to keep social distance.
What do you think about the difference between Korea's response to COVID-19 and other countries’ responses?
Baek Min-young (South Korea): It is said that the number of diagnoses has increased to 10,000 every day since late February, with more than 150,000 people completing the tests from the start of the situation to the first weekend of March. Indeed, statistics show that Korea has considerably higher levels of tests compared to other countries. I think these advanced health systems and well-equipped medical systems are different from other countries.
Ding Jiaqi: What is different from China is that China imposed a ban on Wuhan right after the coronavirus began in the city. However, although there have been many confirmed cases in Korea from Daegu, it has reduced the number of people moving to and from Daegu by controlling public transportation, not by banning entry. What is different from European countries is that the government actively responded to the increase in mask prices so that people can buy masks.
Is wearing a mask emphasized in your country?
Nikolai Willer Svendsen: Wearing a mask is highly recommended and emphasized, but I do not think masks are that common in Denmark. Due to the mask distribution structure, people do not use masks very well, and there are not many masks that people can buy.
Shamsutdinova Indira (Russia): Wearing a mask is emphasized in Russia. There is no one in Russia who does not wear a mask now. However, it is difficult to buy masks because there are not enough of them, and most of them are not sold at pharmacies and they are too expensive.
Is the COVID-19 test and treatment going well in your country now?
Shamsutdinova Indira: Currently, COVID-19 diagnostic tests and treatments are not done well in Russia and the test is expensive and people can only be tested in large cities. However, isolation is mandatory and the fine is equivalent to about 300,000 won if you leave home after eight o'clock. In addition, all schools and businesses are temporarily closed or telecommuting, and travel is strictly restricted by making it mandatory to have electronic pass cards to use public transportation.
Nikolai Willer Svendsen: I think things are getting much better than before because people are at home and are less likely to infect others. Airport and border areas are also off-limits unless they carry a Danish passport. Some people often ask me why I did not go back to Denmark. I think it is too irresponsible to go back because I could have carried the virus from here and potentially spread it to others there. In my opinion, the best thing for me is to stay here in Korea and make sure I stay healthy without getting infected with the virus.
There is a hoarding phenomenon in many countries right now, what do you think the reason is?
Ding Jiaqi: In many countries, there is a shortage of supplies such as masks and protective clothing, and people all over the world know what a terrible disease COVID-19 is. Knowing that it is effective to reduce contact with people and refrain from going out, it seems that the hoarding phenomenon is a widespread problem such as people hoarding masks and food.
Baek Min-young: I think the hoarding phenomenon occurs because there is a lot of demand but there is no supply. Those who needed goods would have been more than double the usual number due to special factors such as the coronavirus, but there is a limit to the increasing supply. The coronavirus caused a supply-demand mismatch, which resulted in hoarding.
South Korea’s Central Disease Control Headquarters said that as long as the global epidemic persists, unless the border is sealed off for good, the coronavirus could possibly spread globally at any time and new sources of infection will continue to emerge. Currently, there are not as many people wearing masks and keeping social distance as before due to the decrease in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Korea. However, they should be careful towards each other and prepare for COVID-19 as it can come back anytime.
By Ma Joon-hee, Tribune Reporter
Ding Jiaqi, Master’s Student, Dept. of Korean Language Education, China
Nikolai Willer Svendsen, Sophomore, Dept. of Business Administration, Denmark
Shamsutdinova Indira, Junior, Dept. of Political Science and International Relations, Russia
Baek Min-young, Junior, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering, South Korea