Strange double standards

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Strange double standards

 Covid-19 remains a risk and danger in spite of the announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech that their experimental vaccines proved 90 percent effective in preventing the new coronavirus. But the jab won’t likely arrive any time soon. In the meantime, infection cases remain stubbornly around three-digit numbers.

We must not let down our guards down as the virus is still very much alive and threatening. Although the Pfizer treatment is at the last clinical stage, it needs to be studied for safety as well as validity in storage and shipping. If lucky, the shots can arrive in Korea as early as late next year. But until then, masks, hygiene and social distancing are the best protection.

New cases this week have stayed above 100 for four days in a row, less than a week after the Moon Jae-in administration divided the three-tiered social distancing levels further into a five-tiered system.

But despite case numbers, the government appears to have moved past the virus. Under a new five-tier system, the social restriction level should be raised to Level 1.5 if new infection cases exceed 100 for a week in the capital. Health authorities believe the upgrade may be inevitable in two to three weeks time. But if conditions are met, the level needs to be raised preemptively. The spread already worsened because the government tried to prioritize political and economic interests over quarantine policy.

Progressive groups this week are planning mass rallies. Over 100,000 are expected to take part in nationwide rallies on Saturday commemorating Baek Nam-ki, a farmer who died five years ago after being hit by a police water cannon. On the same day, workers of the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions also hold a rally in Yeouido, western Seoul, for the 40th anniversary of the death of the iconic labor activist Chun Tae-il.

Authorities have been strangely tolerant of the rallies by progressive groups whereas they vehemently banned protests by conservative groups. Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min accused the organizers of the protests on Aug. 15 in Gwanghwamun Square of being “murderers” for spreading the virus.

But this time, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun issued a mild advisory of “avoiding mass-scale” rallies. Seoul city and policy authorities also have not issued a ban on their rally or other restriction measures. All people have the right to assemble. The virus poses equal danger to everyone regardless of ideological bias.

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