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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 27)

Health 06:59 September 27, 2021

Shame on wishy-washy guidelines

After daily Covid-19 cases exceeded 3,000 on Saturday, concerns are deepening over whether we really can return to normal lives. In an urgent briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), singled out "increased traffic during the long Chuseok holiday" and the "following increase in human contact" as major reasons for the alarming spike in infections. She seems to attribute it to more movement by the people. She advised citizens to "refrain from having a private gathering for at least two weeks from now" to prevent a further spread.

Prof. Kim Yoon, an expert in health policy and management at Seoul National University, blamed the government for "not taking responsibility for the increase in cases and shifting it to the people." They know the reason for their protracted pain. The government was busy bragging about so-called "K-quarantine" and was lazy in purchasing vaccines in the early stages. The ratio of those fully vaccinated is merely 40 percent of the population.

The government confused the public by frequently changing the number of people allowed to gather — from two, four, six and eight. Citizens' patience is running out fast. In the meantime, an increasing number of singing rooms and bars brazenly defy the curfew and stay open until after 10 p.m. to accept customers tired of tough regulations.

On Thursday — a day after the five-day Chuseok holiday ended — President Moon Jae-in mentioned the need to consider "Living with Corona" in October, when "70 percent of the population is expected to get fully vaccinated." Two days later, the country saw its largest number of daily cases. The KDCA commissioner warned against the possibility of a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in one or two weeks. This is nothing new. When Moon in July talked about the need for advancing the date to return to normal, the commissioner warned of an increase in cases.

Citizens are now worried what novel regulations will be included in the government's new quarantine guidelines to be announced on Oct. 4. Chon Eun-mi, a professor of respiratory medicine at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, warned that if the spread cannot be curbed by the end of October, daily cases could soar to 4,000 to 5,000 in November when the weather gets colder.

For a successful transition from an alarming spike in cases to "With Corona," the government must convince the public of the effectiveness of its measures to fight the pandemic. It cannot win an uphill battle against the monster by a rule of thumb. The solution must come from science — and prudence — instead of its wishy-washy approach.
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