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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 29)

Welfare/Medicine 07:09 September 29, 2020

Holiday health alert
Time to refrain from traveling around country

The health authorities are on high alert over a possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections during the Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 Chuseok holiday. They cannot lower their guard against the pandemic as an increasing number of people are planning to visit tourist destinations across the country during the holiday, raising fears of another wave of coronavirus cases.

The authorities plan to impose special quarantine measures across the country for two weeks from Tuesday. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun released a statement Monday calling on people to refrain from visiting their hometowns during Chuseok. He even compared the current situation to wartime.

The holiday will be a critical period that will determine the course of quarantine efforts against the coronavirus. The government has decided to control people's movements by not allowing cars to pass through highway tollgates free of charge during the holiday. It has also decided to restrict the number of train tickets available by half to reduce the number of travelers. Moreover, the administration is trying to persuade people to refrain from traveling and abide by social distancing and infection prevention guidelines.

However, an estimated 960,000 people plan to depart from local airports except Incheon International Airport for domestic destinations during the holiday. The number represents a 75 percent increase from a year earlier. This is astounding given the unprecedented health crisis arising from the spread of COVID-19.

Almost all accommodation facilities at popular tourist destinations in Gangwon Province and Jeju Island have been fully booked. This rush runs counter to a national campaign to prevent people from visiting relatives and stay away from any kind of gatherings.

New infections have shown little sign of abating, hovering around 100 cases per day for several days. More worrisome is the increasing number of patients whose infection routes cannot be traced. The portion of such patients rose to 20 percent, making it more difficult for the quarantine authorities to sever the infection links.

Against this backdrop, it is dangerous to visit lodging facilities, restaurants and cafes at tourist destinations. Prime Minister Chung also asked some conservative civic groups to refrain from hosting massive outdoor rallies in Seoul on the Oct. 3 National Foundation Day. It is unacceptable for people to gather at the center of the capital when the government is calling on people not to travel.

It is time for all citizens to fully cooperate with the government-led campaign to ensure the public's health. Some politicians in the opposition camp have come under growing criticism for attempting to host "drive-through" rallies in downtown Seoul. Such rallies should not be allowed as they could pose a serious hazard to health and cause traffic congestion and disorder.

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