South Korea has become the country with the largest number of confirmed cases of the Virus followed by China’s Corona Shock. Scientists predict the number of confirmed cases in Korea will reach more than 10,000 people. Today, we hit the record of casualty with more than 40 people already which is more number than that of the MERS Virus. People go back home right after work, restaurants have no customers, and Spring has come, but no outing is seen. The life that has been enjoyed by ordinary people has taken a completely different turn, and now it has become another ordinary daily living. People have experiencing a country they have never experienced before, having to stand in long lines of hundreds of meters and waiting for hours to buy a mask. Koreans are forbidden whether totally or partially from 94 countries and for the first time in 120 years Sunday services have been replaced by virtual services. The doors of elementary schools, which have taken the new semester, are tightly locked, so you can’t see the exciting new semester of children.
The dedication of the medical staffs
At the forefront of the fighting against the Coronavirus are medical personnel. They are carrying out their responsibilities as health care providers even when there is a risk of infection. Volunteer doctors and nurses from across the country are gathering in Daegu where is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Korea. But they also have physical limitations. Taking care of an ever-increasing number of patients is driving the medical team to exhaustion. The infection of the medical staff is also occurring, which makes them more anxious and afraid. Daegu has 3,610 confirmed cases, but more than 600 people are being neglected at home due to a lack of hospital beds, so it is urgent target to prepare beds for them.
Collapse of social welfare system
The social welfare system has collapsed. Social workers who have been helping vulnerable people have become infected or contacted the confirmed, resulting in a service vacuum. Community welfare centers are all closed since 2 weeks ago, so vulnerable people are not eligible for service. The community welfare center has had enough volunteers. But now, without any help, social workers are experiencing exhaustion as they do everything themselves. A service blind spot occurred in the delivery of lunch boxes and safety management for the elderly. As the number of infected people increases, the number of cases of self-quarantine increases. Due to this reason, the empty work must be handled by fellow social work companies. These phenomena are exhausting social workers day by day. Elderly people are getting a collective infection at the nursing home. Since elderly people with basal diseases are the most intoxicated class of the Coronavirus, group infection in a nursing home is a serious problem. Some of provincial governments have decided to implement preventive cohort isolation for social work facilities. All employees will spend 24 hours with their residents without leaving the workplace for two weeks. Social workers who are required to raise their children face difficulties in raising their children once the cohort separation is.
Problem faced to social workers
The Coronavirus situation has caused the social welfare system to collapse, and it is the social workers who are fighting to block it in this collapsed system. Social workers were all responsible for caring for the elderly who were not fed meals in the community and the disabled who had a vacuum in providing sufficient service. Social workers are struggling for the vulnerable in the community, just as doctors and nurses are fighting in the medical field. We are sure to be exhausted soon. The number of vulnerable people who cannot get out of their homes is increasing day by day, and social workers still seem to have a long way to go and have a lot of burdens to carry.
How are we getting through?
Nevertheless, we will get through it well. Local social workers’ associations raised fund and sent it to Daegu Association of Social Workers(DASW), so that necessary supplies are being delivered. The beautiful sharing that social workers help each other is being practiced and we are receiving a lot of encouragement. Korea Association of Social Workers(KASW) is making more efforts to encourage tired social workers. Messages of encouragement through SNS are being delivered to social work facilities in Daegu, gaining great strength. Not only in Korea but also from global social work associations are sending messages of encouragement, making us proud to be social workers. Social welfare facilities were shown giving generously, sharing the necessary items with each other.
Daegu citizens are showing a disciplined sense of citizenship and cooperating with the government. There is no shortage of goods by hoarding goods at the mart, and there is also a movement by some tenants to discount monthly rent. It is a so-called ‘good rent movement’. Citizens are making efforts to avoid meeting as much as possible and not to talk too closely when they inevitably meet as a campaign.
We shall overcome.
The COVID-19 situation has not only changed the daily lives of the Korean people, but also changed politicians’ perceptions. The way the government deals with the Coronavirus is changing preemptively and is taking a transparent and reasonable approach, giving people confidence. As much as the daily lives of the entire nation strive to fight the virus, we shall overcome the situation as we wish it.
Reported by Sug Pyo Kim
IFSW Secretary-General, Dr Rory Truell said, “IFSW calls on all governments to ensure that the professionals and volunteers responding to the virus are equipped with appropriate safety equipment, information and training. Extra resources need to be allocated to social workers and other professionals who are already under extreme pressure. Globally, social workers have a key role as they work with populations that are at high risk should the infection spread to their communities, such as homeless people and people in over-crowed poverty without access to basic hygiene facilities. Resourcing social work at this time, should not be questioned.”
Dr Truell applauded the courageous work of social workers in South Korea and in other highly affected countries.