During a meeting with five national leaders held at Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in said that fortunately South Korea has been responding well to the COVID-19 crisis. He said the country is considered an exemplary model to follow in the fight against COVID-19 adding he believes that we will overcome the COVID-19 crisis down the road. Also for the vaccine supply issue that has become controversial recently, President Moon said preparations are underway to ensure that coronavirus vaccinations for the Korean people will not come too late.
As President Moon sees it, it is true that South Korea has been better than any other advanced countries in containing the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing schemes and systemic diagnosis, tracking, and quarantine systems in the absence of COVID-19 treatment and vaccines. But the existing quarantine measures have reached their limit with the country having daily COVID-19 cases of around 1,000. Severely ill patients died waiting for a hospital bed but the government has not been able to come up with a fundamental solution to the situation. We are obviously not in a situation, where we can take a leap of faith that “we’ll be able to overcome the crisis down the road.”
President Moon also said at the meeting that it is inevitable vaccine producing countries will get vaccines first since they have provided much support to the development of vaccines. However, it only sounds like a poor excuse to justify a late vaccine purchase. President Moon identified vaccine producing countries with the countries that have started vaccinations, but the fact of the matter is those countries that has begun vaccinations, except for the U.S., China, and Russia were quick to purchase vaccines in the early stage of clinical trials. The 27 member countries of the European Union (EU) have decided to start Pfizer vaccinations within the year following Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, and Singapore is making preparations for vaccinations within the year. The South Korean ruling party on Tuesday prevented representatives from global pharmaceutical companies from testifying at the confirmation hearing for Health Minister-nominee at the National Assembly. But hiding and misleading the facts about the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will only worsen the situation.
South Korea is facing the worst COVID-19 crisis since the country confirmed the first case early this year. It could fall into the worst-case scenario, where the COVID-19 situation goes out of control and the economy slumps into a recession while trying to catch two rabbitsㅡCOVID-19 response and economyㅡwith one stone. It is hard to overcome the current crisis with the kind of bureaucracy, where public officials are unwilling to do something they could be held responsible for because they are afraid of a possible audit or questioning at the National Assembly after the pandemic is over. As a control tower, President Moon should come to the fore and present a detailed and clear vision for vaccines supply and response measures in order to reassure the people.