Still patting itself on the back?Containers were installed at the parking lot of the Seoul Medical Center as the capital region ran out of hospital beds to accommodate increasing Covid-19 patients, with the outbreak moving toward four-digit numbers in daily cases. Covid-19 hospital beds in Seoul were more than 83 percent occupied. Remaining intensive care units could accept just 62 as of Wednesday last week. Patients waiting due to a lack of beds also totaled 157 in Seoul, or 62.5 percent of the infected in the capital, that day.
The virus wave has been uncontainable even under stringent social distancing measures. New infections have stayed above 600 for a week, and deaths totaled eight, the biggest number this year. The number of critically-ill people also surged to 172 from 76 on Nov. 30. As it turned out, new cases have already exceeded 1,000, whereas treating facilities are facing serious capacity issues.
Yet President Moon Jae-in remains oblivious. Last Wednesday, he claimed the country was nearing the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. (On Saturday, he hurriedly expressed some regrets about the dramatic surge in a meeting at the Blue House).
The government and its leader should try not to alarm the people too much. But the self-praising remarks were terribly out of place against worsening conditions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained the need for huge borrowings to fight the pandemic and aid the economy next year as well as austerity because the debt must be repaid from 2023. She also had been frank with the public when Covid-19 broke out in March.
The Moon administration has been slack in quarantine actions. It vowed to increase infection-devoted beds by 10,000 last February. So far, 4,900 have been added. Before the second wave in August, the government reduced infection-committed hospitals and converted Covid-19 beds to accept general patients.
Even as it has not been able to keep its promises, the government is all boastful about the country’s quarantine success. It remains unclear whether the government is stalling the vaccination because it has not secured enough supply or due to safety concerns. The government is staining the reputation of Korean quarantine actions that civilian diligently participated in and that medical professionals were devoted to.
The government must show action, not just words, and offer the people treatment and vaccines they deserve after enduring so long with the virus threat.