South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases recorded 558 as of midnight on Friday, the highest number in 42 days. Concerns about the fourth wave of COVID-19 are growing, as the number of new daily cases has exceeded 500 for three days in a row since Wednesday, and more gatherings of people are occurring with warmer spring weather.
It is especially concerning that the non-metropolitan region now accounts for 40 percent of new daily cases, up from 20 percent before the special disease control measures have been implemented in the metropolitan and nearby region since March 15. In the case of Busan where business hour restrictions were lifted on March 15 and bars and clubs resumed all-night operation, 327 new patients were diagnosed within one week, leading to the increased level of social distancing from level 1.5 to level 2 as of 12 p.m. on Friday. Jeonju, North Jeolla Province where mass infections occurred from saunas, etc., as well as Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province and Donghae, Gangwon Province, voluntarily raised the social distancing level to two.
The current situation is causing concerns over the fourth wave, as it is similar to December last year when the number of new patients spiked. At the time, the number of new daily patients had remained between 500 and 700 for five days before spiking to over 1,000. The next week will be the critical period. People’s movement is expected to increase as major department stores started regular sales on Friday and various events – solar terms Cheongmyeong and Hansik signaling clear and nice weather and Easter – are coming up. The density of students in university facilities will also increase with the upcoming midterm. Those enjoying spring flowers are also finding themselves in crowded areas.
It would be comforting if the COVID-19 vaccination was getting done at a faster speed, but South Korea has only vaccinated 1.76 percent of the population. As the South Korean government is belatedly trying to source more vaccines, countries around the world are becoming more nationalistic. The government, which launched a government-wide vaccine sourcing task force on Thursday, needs to put everything on the line to secure vaccines mobilizing all capabilities.
People’s participation in efforts to control the virus cannot be emphasized enough to endure the spring without vaccines. Expedients, such as breaking the ban on gatherings of five or more people by dividing a large group into multiple tables at dinner, should be absolutely avoided. Preventing the fourth wave should come first before recovering ordinary daily lives. It is time to be more cautious, rather than relaxed.