A loosening sense of crisisConfirmed cases of new coronavirus (Covid-19) infections approach 1.3 million around the globe. More than 69,000 have died. U.S. health authorities have warned that the worst is yet to come as deaths have already topped 9,000. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.
In Korea, the number of cases has exceeded 10,000. We are hardly out of the woods. Lee Jae-myung, Gyeonggi governor, warned that the buffers have so far prevented flooding from the waves, but a tsunami could still hit. “We must be ready for an explosion in infections,” he warned. The spread has slowed a bit thanks to the devoted service of medical professionals and participation of citizens in social distancing. But a bigger threat may be looming.
Citizens fatigued from a two-month-long social distancing campaign have begun to let their guards down. Although the paths to cherry blossom around the National Assembly in Yeouido were sealed off, crowds nevertheless filled the streets over the weekend. Visitors to Han River parks totaled 1.43 million in the final week of March, increased from 1.11 million a year ago. Samcheok city in Gangwon had to wipe out the fields of rapeseed flowers as visitors flocked in although the blossom festival was called off.
Stay-at-home orders have also been disregarded. A couple in their 50s that tested positive for the virus disobeyed the authorities’ quarantine order and roamed around an art gallery, restaurant and gas station. A student from the United States boarded a plane after taking multiple flu tablets and came in contact with more than 20 others. They have neglected to recognize the harm they could do.
The government has been inconsistent with quarantine measures. It stopped the musical performance of the Phantom of Opera only after a cast member was confirmed positive. Over 8,578 had already visited the theater. Churches have stopped Sunday services, but some musical performances continue.
A majority of people have complied with the social distancing order because they know that it is the faster way to bring an end to the crisis. The government announced another two-week enforcement on rigorous social distancing. Citizens must willingly take part. If the crisis protracts longer, more people will be out of jobs and more businesses could go under. We must put civility and compassion into full practice.