The South Korean government announced to delay the spring semester planned to start on Monday to next Thursday and start an online semester consecutively with high school and middle school seniors first. The College Scholastic Ability Test has been delayed for two weeks to December for the first time. These delays came after failing to contain COVID-19 despite the strong two-week social distancing. On Monday, the tenth day of social distancing, 125 were newly diagnosed with the virus including 58 patients at the Miju Hospital in Daegu and 29 patients who recently arrived in South Korea from abroad. Some 100 patients have been diagnosed daily.
Sporadic collective infection was the main culprit of the spread so far, but patients from Europe and the U.S. have been the main driver of the virus for the past 10 days as some 40 patients were newly diagnosed every day. This revealed limitations in containing the virus without an entry ban, but the government is reluctant in putting a ban as it would have significant diplomatic and economic repercussion and 90 percent of travelers are Korean nationals.
The government should pull up the reins of quarantine, but every citizen should keep social distance to prevent the virus from spreading. Voluntary distancing has been largely helpful, but tensions are weakening as the situation prolonged. Spring festival attractions packed with springtime picnickers and private educational institutes pushed ahead with a new semester opening are becoming the epicenter of the spread. Administrative guides were applied to 39,809 facilities including religious facilities, karaokes and fitness centers for the past week. There are cases where individuals violate the self-quarantine rules and leave their residence. Normalization of public education would be a long way off, not to mention the April 15 general elections if this trend continues.
Even though it may be hard and inconvenient, citizens should tighten the screws again. They should stay home, refrain from going out or meeting others and avoid contacts with aged people who are vulnerable to infection should they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. Those who are mandated to quarantine themselves should observe guidelines to keep their family and neighbors safe. The government should look for more sustainable quarantine rules and reinforce quarantine policies so that social distancing could produce actual results. It should also press on its way to establish quarantine rules for schools so that students could go back to their classrooms in the near future.