Governmental responses to COVID-19 outbreaks vary despite having the same governmental structure. An example of this can be seen in the US White House vs a South Korean Church.
WASHINGTON, DC, October 12, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — As more and more positive COVID-19 cases plague the White House, Americans are further questioning the US governments’ handling of the pandemic among not only its leaders, but the country as a whole. Although some people have regarded the government’s pandemic response as a political move to gain voters before an election, others have crossed partisan lines to unite and fight the virus as one.
Despite the disagreement, it is important to recognize the facts of handling the outbreak in the White House and compare it to other similar instances around the world.
On October 1st, President Trump announced through Twitter that he and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19. On October 4th, he was taken to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to undergo experimental treatments. The administration quickly received much criticism as the President had reportedly come in close contact with more than 120 people during the week leading up to his positive COVID-19 result. According to a USA TODAY investigation, the President traveled with, shook hands with, and mingled in enclosed spaces with those who later tested positive. The President also held campaign rallies during that time with one event reporting 5,600 attendees. Many attendees were said to have not been wearing masks or exercising social distancing. The White House also allegedly turned down an offer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct contact tracing on the COVID-19 outbreak amongst Trump aides.
Meanwhile, other leaders across the world are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks among their followers but have received a very different response from the government. One such case is an outbreak that occurred in February in Daegu, South Korea within a religious group called Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
Shincheonji Church of Jesus, led by Global Peace activist Man Hee Lee, experienced an isolated outbreak when Shincheonji member and asymptomatic carrier “Patient 31” tested positive for COVID-19. Immediately after Patient 31 tested positive, Shincheonji halted all in-person worship services and meetings. After Patient 31’s positive result, over 1,000 Shincheonji members were reported to be found positive for the virus as well. The outbreak triggered an investigation by Korean officials who conducted thorough contact tracing and requested a list of all nearly 300,000 members of the church, including those attending other church locations and abroad churches. When Korean officials claimed the lists to be falsified, the late mayor of Seoul ordered a raid of the Shincheonji Headquarters, but investigators ultimately found that the church had not lied about the member lists. During the investigation, Mr. Lee held a press conference to answer questions regarding the outbreak and apologize for not preventing the spread fast enough despite the measures that were put in place. At one point during the press conference the 90-year-old knelt to the ground in front of reporters asking for forgiveness.
Despite this, Korean officials arrested Man Hee Lee on July 31st for allegedly submitting a falsified list of church members and facilities to the government. He is currently awaiting trial in a South Korean Detention Center. Shincheonji says they are still requiring all worship services and church-related meetings to be held virtually so as not to increase the risk of transmission of the virus among its members.
When comparing the outbreak of COVID-19 among White House officials and those of a South Korean religious group, a stark contrast is noted in the handling of the outbreak by the government despite both countries following democratic systems. As President Trump receives experimental treatment and declines help from the CDC to protect others from contracting the virus, other worldwide leaders are imprisoned because of church members unknowingly spreading the virus while abiding by governmental guidelines.
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