Coronavirus – thoughts from Seoul continued

What’s up with Korea and all these religious sects?

Is what my friend in the US asked me over text as we talked about the escalating coronavirus scare in Korea right now. Forget Patient zero, here it’s Patient 31 who is receiving all the spotlight. You might have heard how the Coronavirus outbreak has surged in Korea in the past week, mostly in the Daegu area, due to this “super spreader” who also is a member of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious group in Korea. Most of the new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since last week are Shincheonji members or related to the church, so naturally there’s been a lot of focus on this group. I woke up to the news this morning that the government has received a list of all church members to investigate their whereabouts and follow up with tests. It feels a little surreal.

To answer my friend’s question, I actually don’t know what’s up with all the religious sects. I’m not sure if there are actually more obscure religious groups from Korea than other countries, but it certainly does seem like it. Especially since there are more well-known ones that have made it overseas. But that’s not the point of this post.

These days the Korean news is all about Coronavirus, and even the stories that aren’t still manage to work in the topic. For example, there are upcoming National Assembly elections in April, but the candidates have had to postpone on-the-ground campaigning for obvious reasons. The sports news starts off with how professional sports events attendance has plummeted, and how the different sports associations and leagues are considering postponing the seasons.

The start of school (normally starts the beginning of March) has been postponed for a week. Stores have shorter operating hours and companies have started to implement flex work measures, like either working from home or shortened work hours (10 to 5, but have to work the extra two hours from home). Some companies have new policies in place, restricting anyone not wearing a mask from entering the workplace or requiring temperature checks at the door.

The recommendation being emphasized in mass media is to encourage people to go out about their daily lives (gotta support the domestic economy) but to avoid places with crowds. If you know Seoul, it might sound laughable to imagine a place without crowds, but actually the streets and public places are definitely less populated right now. Seoul Station, which is normally teeming with people, was eerily less busy over the weekend. And after the government raised the threat alert to the highest level, there is just a different vibe to the city. It’s more empty, more subdued, and everyone is masked. I feel like I’m in a dystopian movie.

Also prominent in the news is how other countries are reacting to Korea in terms of Coronavirus. There have been a smattering of stories of travelers from Korea being denied entry or shuttled into quarantine before they can take the first flight back. The CDC has issued the highest travel advisory for Korea as well. It’s an interesting change to be in the news for something not related to North Korea. Actually, quite the change to be more notorious than our northern neighbors right now.

Once this all passes, I am curious as to how this will affect immigration policies worldwide. Especially considering that it began in China and spread to Asia first, can’t overlook the race aspect.

I think the country is doing all it can towards containment, and I think the recent surging numbers are as much a reflection of the country’s thorough testing for the virus, as it is of the contagiousness of the disease. The number of confirmed patients in Korea may be the highest outside of China, but the mortality rate is still relatively low. In the meantime, all I can do is follow the government’s recommended safety measures: wear a mask, Dracula cough, and wash my hands vigilantly.

My thoughts on Coronavius from three weeks ago

And my thoughts continued a few days later

17 Comments

  1. It’s pretty crazy. I’m hoping for it to all go away, like a bad dream. It seems our dystopian future is here, despite our best efforts. Bottled water, canned air, pollution, global warming, and even though the WHO refuses to say it, a pandemic.

    Thailand has moved on from the virus, mainly because it had its first mass shooting down south. And we don’t appear to be getting cases even though there isn’t a single travel ban from China, including cities with thousands or hundreds of cases.

    But! The Middle East is banning flights from Thailand. I get it, but I don’t. On the one hand, I understand that SEA countries might be downplaying the numbers, but there’s also talk about the virus not being able to thrive in warmer climates. This makes sense, so that’s the hope I’m clinging for because I’m visiting family mid-year, and I want to goooooo!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I feel ya. It does feel like a bad dream, but one where no one knows if it’s ending or just beginning. Scrolling through Twitter today and seeing people whose opinions I respect observe the exact opposite about the whole thing (it’s plateauing vs. stockpile on emergency food supplies now) only heightens the nightmare of it all.

      There was similar talk over here about Covid-19 being weak in heat: literally saw advice being shared in a group chat recommending people “shower themselves” with a hair dryer when they return home to kill the virus…

      I guees all there is to do is hope we wake up from this bad dream unscathed. Stay well, Lani!!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. OMG. Hair dryer shower…that’s a new one. Yeah, I don’t know, more Southern Hemisphere climates/countries are showing up with the virus. Will it take off? Will it have a half-life? I don’t know, but it’s too depressing for words. My heart really goes out to the Chinese (esp in Wuhan).

        The govt, on the other hand, I’m very angry with…I know its a political dance, but once you dive into how much countries and industries are being effected, UGH .. please tell me the Olympics won’t be cancelled!!!!!

        Stay well, too! xxoo

        Liked by 3 people

  2. The whole thing gets scarier by the day! The virus has now reached Europe and Germany too and people are.beginning to scrutinize each other for symptoms even though the virus is contagious when you don’t feel any symptoms – how weird is that? No one’s wearing masks yet here although it’s been reported that they’re sold out. I guess people here are just not used to it and don’t want to stand out. And the supermarkets begin to look empty – it really seems like a bad dream but I fear it’s just the beginning. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just heard from my aunt in London that the newspapers are going crazy! I guess we have been in a state of emergency for a few weeks already, but when it was first announced, there was so much panic as well. Stay safe, Sarah. Keep healthy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Ju-Lyn! Since England isn’t very far from here, I can imagine it’s the same over there as here. Many grocery stores are almost empty already which is scary. It seems that Keep calm and Drink tea isn’t much of a motto these days. 😦

        Like

      2. Sigh. I think we are a little farther along in the panic cycle in Singapore. We experienced the grocery store emptying about 2 weeks ago when the madness first ramped up. I am happy to report the toilet paper shelves are now restocked.

        Seriously though, stay safe & healthy Sarah!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We have our first case in New Zealand and it has caused mass panic-buying in grocery stores. “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” I guess. I have no idea what would happen if (when) we get lots of cases here. I live in a state of semi disaster preparedness (though my expectations have previously been of earthquakes, tsunami and volcanos appearing in my back yard), but I really don’t know if that’s enough. I hope I don’t get to find out.
    Stay safe. xx

    Liked by 3 people

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