The number of COVID-19 per-day infection cases shot up to 800 last week, hovering around 700 or more throughout the weekend. The overseas inflow cases hit the all-time high in a year, and the number of infection cases on Sunday was the biggest ever in half a year. The country is in effect faced with the fourth wave of the pandemic, owing to the increasing possibility of the spread of the Delta variant known to be much more contagious compared to other existing variants.
The fast-spreading Delta variant has been detected in 100 countries around the world so far. This means there is a growing possibility that the variant might find its way into South Korea through foreign visitors. According to the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, the rate of the Delta variant in the country, which stood at less than 1% two months earlier, has jumped to 7% now. Under the current test system, it takes almost a week to verify the infection of the variant. Old data should not be used in drawing up quarantine strategies; a swift test system needs to be implemented.
With the Delta variants sweeping across the globe, the World Health Organization is recommending even those vaccinated to wear a mask when indoors. But in South Korea, the vigilance against the coronavirus is getting lax quickly on the back of growing quarantine fatigue. In fact, many are having loud conversations without a mask not only outside, but on a bus or inside a busy subway. Israel, the United States and other highly vaccinated countries are switching back on quarantine mode to fight the Delta variant. It is never the time to let down the guard for South Korea, a country whose vaccination rate only hovers around 30%.
The daily average of infection cases in the metropolitan areas over last week was 569, accounting over 80% of the entire tallies. Summer vacation is a critical phase; once the metropolitan districts are compromised, the entire country would break down. When it comes to easing the social distancing, lawmakers should never try to curry favor with the public opinion. The decision must be based on science and expert data, and necessary measures must be put in place even when they are painstaking. Now is not the time for us to ease social distancing. It is vital to get back to the basics of quarantine lest we should squander the collective effort we’ve made over one and a half years against COVID-19.