Questionable standardsKorea is now under a nationwide social distancing system of Level 2 — the second highest in the three-tier restriction scale — as the daily count in new Covid-19 cases has stayed in the three-digit numbers for over a week. But a flop in the incomprehensible guidelines of the government’s social distancing measures have aggravated public anxieties and discomforts.
For instance, Protestant church assemblies are banned in the capital area and municipalities across the country. However, Catholic and Buddhist masses are allowed. It is true that some churches have been the source of clusters. But indoor masses — whether they are for Catholic or Protestant Christianity faith — pose an equal danger.
Of course, any church that disobeys quarantine rules should be punished. But the guidelines must be fair. Public policy cannot draw public support if it cannot be equally convincing to the public.
Internet cafe operators are also disgruntled because ordinary cafes, which have already caused a cluster, are allowed to do business. Shopping and popular dining and drinking places are brimming with people. Gaming, comics and video rooms also are allowed to open, as the closure is only enforced on internet cafes and singing rooms.
The new rule in Seoul city banning outdoor assemblies of more than 10 people has also raised strong protest. While allowing up to 49 people indoors, keeping head counts at outside assemblies is incomprehensible. Guidelines have become incoherent because policies continued to be added whenever the need arose
As Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), has warned, Korea has not reached its peak in Covid-19 infections. The situation could call for a stronger action such as a preemptive lockdown if necessary.
At the same time, restriction measures should be more detailed and incremental as well as fair so that people will become willing to endure immediate discomforts and losses for the broader social interest.
People have so far gone along with questionable measures as they believed the virus threat would not last that long. If measures continue to be felt unreasonable and unfair during a protracted pandemic crisis, social unrest can deepen. Society could also fall into an anomie if the virus threat is fueled by growing public distrust with government measures.