Sir, – As a global community, we have been facing an unprecedented time of crisis, and each country has come up with its own strategy based on its unique situation. But we can find and draw on some common lessons from the countries, including South Korea, that have managed to “flatten the curve” recently. In particular, the case of South Korea can be a model for liberal democracies such as Ireland to follow, as suggested by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as well as other opinion leaders in Ireland.
As recommended by the World Health Organisation repeatedly, widespread testing is the key to containing and suppressing the spread of the virus. With massive testing, we can detect the patients early, track the contacts of the patients early and isolate them early to limit the spread of the virus. The more testing, the better. The quicker the testing, the better. South Korea can test up to 18,000 cases daily thanks to our past experience of Mers and Sars, when we struggled to implement aggressive testing quickly enough because of the lack of testing kits. We have changed our regulations and way of preparing for the emergency since then. As of March 23rd, we have tested around 350,000 people, one out of every 145 people in Korea. We have been innovative in pioneering tools such as drive-through testing stations, phonebooth-style testing facilities and smartphone applications to support our efforts.
People should also heed the need for social distancing and washing hands. Without the support and participation of the public, it would be almost impossible to combat the pandemic of this magnitude. That’s why it is crucial to communicate with the people with clear and consistent messages based on public trust in government and the health authorities. The public trust can only to be earned and harnessed through full openness and transparency. This is the background of our decision that we should share information based on the facts with as many people as possible in a transparent way. The more transparently and quickly accurate information is provided, the more the people will trust government.
As pandemic fears grow across the world, the world also has seen acts of discrimination toward Asians. Just as you wash your hands, wash out any hate that you may have for others. The hate gets you sick mentally, just as the virus gets you sick physically. Sometimes it is heartbreaking to see the kindness of the majority of Irish people tarnished by the recklessness by a few people on the street. We need to guard not only against the spread of the virus, but also fear, discrimination and isolation – all of which may strain our core values of free and open democracy.
We do know that the virus has fed on complacency. We do know we should do more to defeat our common enemy. We must help one another with solidarity. We are all in this together! – Yours, etc,
Embassy of the
Republic of Korea,
Sir, – When the Covid-19 pandemic has finally run its course and the people of the world are in a better position to look back on events, they can identify clearly those politicians and others in power whose selfish, irresponsible, reckless deeds have brought disgrace on themselves and their organisations. Others will have their reputations enhanced.
In the US, one such person is Congresswoman Katie Porter, who has by her actions saved countless American lives. A couple of weeks ago, as a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, she questioned the Donald Trump-appointed Dr Robert Redfield, the head of the Centres for Disease Control, on the administration’s handling of the Covid-19 virus outbreak. She showed that testing would cost upwards of $1,330 per person, a price that most Americans cannot afford. With focused questioning, within five minutes she got him to commit to offering free testing for all Americans who need it. The interview can be seen on YouTube and is, in my opinion, a textbook example of how to expertly overcome obfuscation and foot-dragging by uncooperative witnesses.
Katie Porter, a woman with a conscience, a serious player and one to watch out for in the future. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has shown true leadership by ordering the biggest and longest lockdown in history in a country of more than a billion people. India risks a massive economic fallout but has prioritised the preservation of lives.
We in Ireland need a stricter lockdown to prevent further spreading of this highly infectious virus. – Yours, etc,
Lucan, Co Dublin.
A chara, – Many thousands of people here are finding their lives pushed to the precarious edge because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of them perhaps never had personal experience of how precarious their lives and wellbeing are. For some, it will be a second time for this experience.
In many ways, everyone in our society now has this experience, because Covid-19 is not limited by our human boundaries. Every human life is fragile.
But there are many in Ireland, and around the world, who know no other life except the precarious kind. Of course, we already knew that.
One thing we could learn from this is not to forget the experience.
We can make a profound commitment that as we go beyond the present crisis, we will put the resources in place to make it possible that no human being will need to know that kind of life. We are already taking extraordinary measures now in this crisis. There is absolutely no valid excuse for not also taking such measures, however extraordinary, to accomplish that for all our people. Will we? – Yours, etc,