Tougher social distancing guidelines have been implemented in the Seoul metropolitan area starting from Sunday. Under the new rules, which will remain in place until Sunday, the use of public spaces will be restricted. Dubbing the period “a pause in the lives of 10 million Seoulites,” the city of Seoul has urged its citizens to follow the guidelines by staying home as much as possible.
Two hundred ninety-nine cases were reported on Sunday, taking the country’s tally to almost 20,000 at 19,699. On average, more than 300 people tested positive everyday for the last two weeks, and 19 people died due to an increasing number of elderly patients, increasing fatalities to 323. COVID-19 cases worldwide have surpassed 25 million as of Saturday. Five million cases were added only within 20 days, showing how fast the virus is spreading.
It is high time to take action to slow down the spread. The following week will decide whether the spread of the virus will go out of control or slow down. If the new measures fail to curb COVID-19, lockdown will have to be imposed, which means all socio-economic activities will be banned unless it is essential. This will inevitably deal a blow to the already fragile economy.
Having life on pause will not be easy for anyone, but it will be particularly hard for small business owners who will have to close their business for a week. The government should make sure to provide sufficient support so that they will not lose hope.
The government should also find a way to come to an agreement with doctors. It sued doctors who disobeyed the government order that required them to return to work, which prompted the Korea Medical Association to go on a strike with no end date starting next Monday. Doctors also decided Sunday to continue their strike. A prolonged strike can bring the healthcare system to the brink of collapse, which will be the worst-case scenario. The number of emergency-patients who lost their lives because they did not receive care in time is already rising, while patients in intensive care now have to wait longer to receive treatment. There is no doubt that the strike could have been avoided if the government were open to discussions with doctors. Both government officials and doctors should stop the confrontation and work together to fight against the coronavirus. South Korea’s disease control capabilities will be put to the test for the following week. Everyone should do their part and protect everyone’s future.