The daily COVID-19 cases dropped to 718 on Monday from Sunday’s 1,030 probably as a consequence of fewer tests carried out during the weekend. The disease control authorities predict that daily infections have reached up to 1,200 given the R rate. The government is hesitant to upgrade coronavirus restrictions to Phase 3, citing possible economic repercussions, but its timely decision is critical in preventing the situation from spiraling out of control.
While making the efforts to curb the number of cases, it should also secure more beds and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Almost all critical care beds and non-critical care beds in the metropolitan area are occupied by COVID-19 patients after a steep rise in confirmed cases for the past two weeks. The government rushed out a plan on Sunday to secure 287 ICU beds and 4,905 non-ICU beds additionally, but it was a belated response.
As people can now get tested at 150 temporary testing centers in the Seoul metropolitan area, a preventive measure introduced on Monday to help stop the spread, the number of coronavirus patients is likely to shoot up but there are not enough beds to accommodate them all. Instead of relying solely on public hospitals, the government should turn to private hospitals which have 90 percent of hospital beds to ease the shortage.
To make matters worse, the public’s mistrust in the government’s ability to secure vaccines is growing. The government said Tuesday that it has secured 44 million vaccines and will start vaccinations as early as February 2021. However, it signed a contract only for 10 million AstraZenaca vaccines that are currently in clinical trials, causing concern that they will not be provided on time. The government should be transparent about the current status and work closely together with the private sector if necessary to secure vaccines.