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Fighting the coronavirus: Europe shuns South Korea to its cost

15 0 7
By Jean-Luc Renaud

Jean-Luc RenaudFriday, March 13, when I flew back to Korea to resume my university teaching, my British friends called me crazy to return to a country in the midst of the epidemic.

Via Skype, they now tell me I would be crazy to return to the United Kingdom given the rapidly worsening situation in the Old Continent. Well, the day after I left London, the lockdown of an entire continent was being put in place. It is now me who worries about my friends, not to mention my family.

I am glued to my laptop following hour by hour, horrified, the speed with which, in the continent of the Siecle des Lumieres, France, champion of the Declaration of Human Rights, and my country Switzerland, the land of people's direct democracy, are locking up their entire population, as do their neighbors.

No apology for the dramatic opening sequence. My departure brings to mind the iconic photo of a German family fleeing to the West the day Walter Ulbricht's communist troops were erecting the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961. Did I take the last flight to freedom (funnily enough, on board a Lufthansa plane)? Well, apparently, there is no more planes flying from Heathrow or Geneva to Korea, and I am not even sure I would be allowed to get out of my north London home.

Total population containment and forced "social distancing" are the only policies European leaders believe will be effective. The United Kingdom did, courageously, explore an alternative route to stave off the epidemic, without reverting to the brutal hand of the state. They lost this fight, aligning themselves with Europe's catechism (so much for Brexit). Rumors circulate that London is about to be on lockdown.

France best illustrates what a lockdown is. The entire population is told to stay inside their homes for at least a month. If people need to go out, they must print an authorization form downloaded from the government website, tick one of the five reasons to justify the trip, sign it and keep it with them. One of the 100,000 police officers across the country will ask to check it. If you were creative about the reasons you gave, you will be punished.

I learnt today that more than 100,000 "law-breaking" citizens have already been fined. Needless to say that........

© The Korea Times