Chinese experts urge S.Korea and Japan to prepare plan for spread of COVID-19

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/21 12:42:24

Chinese experts have urged South Korea and Japan to prepare emergency plans in case of a spread of the COVID-19 epidemic as the novel coronavirus is seemingly accelerating in the two neighboring countries. 

They noted systematic and legal issues in the two countries that may hinder them from quickly quarantining infected and suspect patients in the same way as China, which could bring about problems in their epidemic prevention and control work.  

As of 7 pm on Wednesday, Japan has reported 702 confirmed COVID-19 infection cases with one dead. More than 500 of the cases are people quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama. 

South Korea is also witnessing an accelerated spread of the virus after reports of a suspected "super spreader" on Tuesday. The country reported 51 novel coronavirus infection cases as of 5 pm Wednesday, according to Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency. 

While China is seemingly succeeding in the battle against the epidemic, which has infected more than 70,000 people and claimed 2,009 lives in the country, thanks to more and more effective drugs and therapies, Chinese netizens and experts have started to worry about a potential outbreak in the two neighboring countries. 

A passenger (left) disembarks from the Diamond Princess cruise ship – in quarantine due to fears of the novel coronavirus – at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on Wednesday. Relieved passengers began leaving the coronavirus-wracked cruise ship in Japan after testing negative for the disease (See stories on Page 4 and 15). Photo: AFP

"China, Japan and South Korea are three vital countries in Asia and play important roles in the global economy. If the three countries are trapped in an epidemic at the same time, it will cause a big economic loss," Lü Chao, a researcher with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Lü called for the two countries to lay out a preparation plan for the epidemic immediately, noting that the three countries should cooperate closely in all aspects including economic and scientific research to control the epidemic as soon as possible and reduce the losses to the minimum level. 

He especially stressed the importance for Japan to control the infection as soon as possible given the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled for July. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday called for "all possible measures" to support the South Korean economy to prevent a growing crisis in the country's China-reliant economy as the fallout from the deadly coronavirus outbreak continued to spread globally. 

China and Japan have started cooperating to share epidemic prevention and control information and experiences, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang. 

However, experts noted that due to different state management and legal systems, Japan and South Korea may face problems in quickly mobilizing and effectively controlling people during an epidemic. 

"Their governments are not as powerful as the Chinese government and their residents may not consciously cooperate like Chinese people did," Lü said.  

So the strict community grid management China used to effectively control population mobility and screen suspected patients is not suitable for them, and they have to figure out their own approaches, according to Lü.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, echoed Lü, noting that sometimes administrative measures are more effective in controlling an epidemic than scientific technologies.    

Three experiences can be learned from China's battle against the COVID-19 epidemic: to hospitalize confirmed patients as soon as possible; to hospitalize and verify suspected patients as soon as possible; and to avoid self-quarantining at home as it may lead to infection among families, according to Zeng.

South Korea's experiences from the fight against MERS could be applied this time against the COVID-19 infection, Zeng noted. 

Chinese netizens are also concerned about the situation in South Korea and Japan as the two countries have been helping China greatly in the last month to combat the epidemic. 

"Stay strong!" "Get serious before it is too late!" "Neighbors fight in this together!" are typical comments on Chinese social media. 


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