Time to get seriousDaily Covid-19 cases in Korea hit a new record of 1,078 on Wednesday. Given the weekly average of 823 cases per day, it meets the requirements for Level 3 social distancing measures of between 800 and 1,000 cases a day for a week. It is no time for the government to dilly-dally anymore. Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), should appeal to President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, who serves as the commander in the war against the novel coronavirus, to upgrade social distancing to the highest level.
Only a week ago, Moon said, “We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” His assessment was wrong. The country has no cures or vaccines to fight the virus. And yet, Moon’s administration only reiterates it is watching the situation carefully. “Given the huge repercussions of Level 3, we are cautiously making preparations,” said health authorities.
But the standards the government came up with to fight Covid-19 are defective. For instance, the government does not have any plans for a lockdown beyond Level 3. When Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung proposed to raise social distancing to the top level on his own, the central government simply dismissed it. The government repeatedly made mistakes by hurriedly easing social restrictions at the slightest sign of decreased cases. It hesitates to upgrade the level when it needs to.
As a result, the administration failed to control the spread by hastily easing social distancing on Oct. 12, when the number of daily cases did not meet the requirements. The government invited this third wave of infections.
We understand its concerns about the enormous economic impact when it decides to raise social distancing to Level 3. But controlling the spread will eventually help the economy more than not. Partly thanks to the repeatedly missed timing by the government, even ordinary citizens have become experts in the deadly disease. In a JoongAng Ilbo survey, a whopping 81 percent demanded an upgrading of social distancing to Level 3 while only 19 percent wanted to keep it at the current Level 2.5.
A poll should not determine the direction of a government. Nevertheless, the results of the survey show how desperate our people are to win the battle against Covid-19 — if only the administration would listen.