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Cooperation request doesn’t work amid extended social distancing

Cooperation request doesn’t work amid extended social distancing

Posted August. 07, 2021 07:18,   

Updated August. 07, 2021 07:18


The South Korean government announced that it will extend the social distancing level currently in place, scheduled to end this weekend, for two more weeks until August 22. With the level 4 in the Seoul metropolitan area for four weeks and the level 3 in the rest of the nation for two weeks, there have been no signs of any dent on the spreading of the 4th wave of pandemic. The daily number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases was 1,704 as of Friday. Since July 8, the nation has recorded a four-digit number over the full month.

Some critics argued that additional quarantine measures should be taken to curb the increasing number of COVID-19 infections before the government’s announcement to extend the current social distancing system. However, it turned out that there has been no upgrade from the current level except a ban newly placed on family gatherings of more than four in the non-capital region. It is the third time to put the level 4 in place in the capital area. The government needs some self-suspicion about prescribing a treatment that does not work out at all. What’s more, the Delta variant has become a prevailing species amid the growing travel across the nation over the vacation season with holidays around August 15 Liberation Day coming up soon.

Since the onset of the 4th wave of pandemic, the government has missed too many chances to strengthen quarantine measures and rein in the spreading virus. When the social distancing level 4 was put in place on July 12 in the Seoul metropolitan area, some experts proposed to take preemptive action for the rest of the nation to prevent against the balloon effect. However, it was not until the side effect became a reality that social distancing was increased to the level 3. There was a strong request for tougher quarantine efforts to reduce the operating hours of cafes and restaurants, for example, when it turned out to be false that the level 4 in the capital area would start being effective 10 days later. However, with the government sitting on its hands, the country has ended up being tightly controlled for a frustratingly long period contrary to what the government hoped for.

As only 40 percent of the population has got the first jab, social distancing may be the only way to help contain the spreading virus. It is not sufficient for the government to ask for cooperation while threatening to harshly punish any breach of social distancing. To take a step further, it should not repeat the same failure by deferring a decision that incurs pain but must be made. With the tough social distancing system lasting too long, the self-employed see a growing burden on their shoulders. Although the government planned to spend a budget of 14.5 trillion won on supporting small-sized merchants and factory owners, only 1.6 trillion won has still been left unexecuted. It takes flexible administrative response to accelerate the provision of assistance to the self-employed who are being driven to the brink of closing their businesses so that they can get help in a timely manner.

With the number of COVID-19 patients still hovering on a risky level, critical and serious patients are increasing in numbers. Even those in their 60s and above, more than 90 percent of which have got the first jab of vaccine, show a higher infection rate than that before vaccination, increasing the burden on the public health system. Seamless efforts should be made to make sure that vaccines are supplied on schedule and the injection plan is executed with no mistake so that the country can achieve the goal of vaccinating more than 70 percent of its citizens before Chuseok holidays.