The spread of COVID-19 is not showing any signs of improvement across South Korea. As of Thursday, 288 newly confirmed cases were reported to health authorities, recording a three-digit daily number of new patients for seven consecutive days. Most of them have been concentrated around the Seoul metropolitan area. However, as a total of 14 cities and provinces across the nation – except Ulsan, Sejong and Jeju - have seen new cases over the week, the new viral breed has essentially entered upon a starting phase of nationwide spread. The total number of newly confirmed cases among students and school staff soared to 240 with schools starting very soon, leaving parents jittery and worried about any disruption in school and admissions schedules.
What’s worse, there are a growing number of confirmed cases with unidentified transmission sources, recording the highest share of 14.7 percent or 272 patients over the last two weeks since related data were first collected in April. The spiking number of unknown transmissions implies that those undetected under quarantine networks have penetrated at the community level, serving as silent transmitters. Given that a viral strain in the GH group, which has recently been spreading, is more contagious by six times than other groups, those with unknown infection routes can spark another explosive pandemic if left unchecked.
More worryingly, new cases were reported among those who took to the streets in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on Korea’s Liberation Day, who turned out to have a direct association with Sarang Jeil Church. Protesters can turn into a catalyst for unidentified transmission as they were estimated at around 50,000 from all over the nation according to protest organizers. Considering that only 8,500 among the protesters have been tested for the virus, quarantine authorities have warned that things can get as bad as those in the United States and Europe if the rest of them is left untracked until the weekend. Participants in last Saturday’s protest are required to get tested for COVID-19 to help prevent against community transmission. It may come as no surprise that you turn out to be infected with the virus no matter anywhere, anytime. You are advised to stay home, wash your hands and wear a mask.
What matters most is to reduce fatality rates by making timely medical interventions at a time when the spread of the virus is reaching an uncontrollable point. Meanwhile, trainees at medical centers start a no-time-limit strike on Friday against the South Korean government’s plan to increase medical school students and include traditional oriental medicine in the public health insurance system. Medical clinics plan to strike starting from next Wednesday. Citizens find it hard to side with neither the medical community, which puts its own interests above public health, nor the government, which sparked controversy by pushing forward with reform in medical policy, one of the most sensitive issues in the nation. Now is the time for both of them to meet each other halfway so that they alike can stifle the flames of the virus.