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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 20)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:04 November 20, 2020

Pre-emptive action needed

New Covid-19 cases have surged to over 300 a day, raising concerns about another wave of infections. The tally came a few days after Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, warned that daily cases could number 300 to 400 over the next few weeks. The strengthened social distancing rule in the capital region may not be enough to contain the new spread.

Raising the restriction rule further to Level 2 from Level 1.5 could stoke complaint and conflict. Under Level 2, serving food and drinks at eateries is banned after 9 p.m., and some businesses may have to close down. Due to the harm cast on businesses and everyday lives, the upgrade requires discretion.

But it is not right for the health authorities to assure that it won't consider the elevation option. Instead of acting on the state manual, the government prefers to plead to the public to wear masks at all times and refrain from gathering over the next two weeks.

It was the government that worsened the virus crisis over the past 10 months through its inconsistencies. When there was a mask supply shortage, the government enforced rationing of masks. It then handed out gift vouchers to promote travel and dining out to boost consumption, which helped trigger the second wave in August. While the government had been hardline on conservative rallies, it condoned the progressive rallies last weekend.

The government took all the credit when infection cases eased and economic data improved. Upon worsening, it found scapegoats to lay the blame on, including members of Shincheonji Church. Even the president provoked conflict between doctors and nurses on the battlefield against the virus.

The government's promise to not enforce social restrictions this time therefore raises suspicion of a political motive. The government may wish to lay the blame on lax individuals or those who don't follow quarantine for the spread.

If there is no ulterior motive, it must act more responsibly and aggressively to contain the new spread. The effect of social distancing measures usually appears in two weeks. The college entry exam will also be held in two weeks. The day is crucial for 500,000 high school students taking the state exam and for their families. It would be catastrophic if the third wave is at its peak during that time.

What our citizens want from the government is not a daily briefing on new infection numbers. They want to hear what the authority is doing to secure vaccines or how far Korean development has come. Governments in America, Japan and Europe have announced they have secured sufficient vaccine supplies. The public doubts if the government can meet its promise of readying jabs by the fall of next year.
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