Stop coronavirus politicsAuthorities are mulling the untried option of a full-scale lockdown as new cases of coronavirus hover at three-digit numbers for two weeks. Daily counts fell under 300, but the social distancing level may have to go up to the highest Level 3 to put a stop to a new wave of cases that could be far damaging than the early spring period when the first spike occurred.
The nation should be united in the face of a national crisis. But it is lamentable that our politicians use the momentum to attack one another. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has ratcheted up its offensive against the opposition United Future Party (UFP). DP floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon accused the UFP of fueling “national division” instead of encouraging rightist groups — which had congregated for a massive anti-government rally on Aug. 15 in Gwanghwamun Square — to cooperate with Covid-19 tests and quarantine actions.
Other DP members also joined the offensive rhetoric. They claimed that extreme rightists feigning as religious groups were spreading the virus. One went so far as to attack UFP interim leader Kim Chong-in for colluding with the “virus terrorists.” The ruling party had devoted itself to attacking the Shincheonji Church during the initial outbreak in spring.
Of course, some figures like Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon of Sarang Jaeil Church, who led the anti-government rally on Aug. 15, went too far in defiance of the government’s quarantine measures. But it cannot be fair for the ruling party to stigmatize the conservative front as the epicenter for the virus.
The opposition already made it clear that it had no relevance to the Gwanghwamun rally and even asked conservative groups who had been at the protest scene to willingly take Covid-19 tests. Patients also emerged from a pro-government rally on Aug. 15 and from cluster groups in coffee shops and internet cafes. The UFP reminded the DP that this was no time for political wrangling as social attention should be concentrated on fighting the virus.
In a recent secretariat meeting, President Moon Jae-in said that any ill-designed and organized actions to hamper with the government’s quarantine measures — and any spreading of fake news — amount to a crime. But his harsh words can send the wrong message to the people. The government must speak and act to draw unity and support, not resentment and division.