A leading South Korean doctor says Trump’s ‘pride’ and ‘ego’ are putting the world’s health at risk

US President Donald Trump.

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US President Donald Trump.
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Getty
  • President Donald Trump’s pride and ego will have “global repercussions” for tackling the coronavirus pandemic, said a South Korean doctor whose aggressive approach to tackling the virus was a model for the country’s success.
  • Min Pok-kee told Wired this week that the US was “very late” in realizing the importance of mass testing for the virus and now risked suffering a crisis like the one in Italy, the effects of which would be felt across the world.
  • “Trump has spoken dismissively about testing because of his ego. As we scientists see it, he’s motivated by pride,” Min said, adding, “In the US, Trump is talking about taking care of his own, but the entire world has to respond in sync.”
  • The US this week became the country with the most cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
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President Donald Trump’s refusal to implement mass testing for the coronavirus in the United States will have “global repercussions,” a South Korean doctor said.

In an interview with Wired this week, Min Pok-kee, whose aggressive approach to tackling the COVID-19 virus in the city of Daegu became a model for South Korea’s nationwide response, said Trump’s failure meant that “it’s inevitable that you become like Italy.”

“The United States is very late to this,” he said. “And the president and the officials working on it seem to think they aren’t late. This has both national and global repercussions.

“It isn’t enough for Korea alone to survive. In the US, Trump is talking about taking care of his own, but the entire world has to respond in sync.”

He said the president’s failure to provide widespread testing was because of his “pride” and “ego.”

“Trump has spoken dismissively about testing because of his ego,” Min said. “As we scientists see it, he’s motivated by pride. The doctors in the US all know that this sort of testing is appropriate.”

The US this week became the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with over 85,000 as of Friday.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s coronavirus strategy has been lauded as a model for other countries. Since the virus hit the country in mid-February, its government has focused on testing lots of people, even introducing drive-thru testing stations.

South Korea’s focus on mass testing has helped it “flatten the curve” and take control of the spread of the virus. As of Friday morning, it had 9,332 confirmed coronavirus cases and 139 deaths.

Min, whose daughter attends college in the US, said social distancing should be “instituted comprehensively” in the US to avoid the national crisis seen in Italy.

“How are existing facilities in the US going to handle all the infected patients? They can’t,” he told Wired.

“So then it’s inevitable that you become like Italy. Korea also could have become like Italy, but we assessed the situation very quickly. What should the United States do? For now, social distancing must be instituted comprehensively, and field hospitals must be built.”

The UK’s ‘herd immunity’ strategy was ‘nonsense’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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Min also criticized the UK’s initial response to the virus, saying that people in South Korea were baffled when the UK government pursued a strategy of achieving “herd immunity.”

This strategy, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson abandoned last week, was based on the belief that it would be harder for the coronavirus to spread in the future once it has affected a majority of the British population.

Scientists warned Johnson’s government that this risked killing thousands of people. Johnson has since switched to a strategy of strict social distancing, with an ambition to significantly ramp up testing.

Min said that “the UK offers a cautionary tale.”

“Its first response was to say that people would develop herd immunity, though it switched course a few days later. I’d already been concerned about the capacity of the British system, and this made me very worried.

“Herd immunity only works if you have a vaccine and 85 to 90 percent of the population is inoculated.

“Right now, in the face of an infectious disease with such a high mortality rate, for the UK to resist acknowledging the reality of the virus could translate into tens of thousands of deaths. It was unthinkable for a government to put out such nonsense.

“We in Korea were thinking, ‘Are these people in their right mind?'”