Refining quarantine standardsKorea’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic has been tested due to a collapse of public faith. Korea managed to contain the virus spread through medical professionals’ commitment and sacrifices and civilian participation. But lengthy business shutdowns and social restrictions have pushed owners and the self-employed to their limits. Their collective action and protests cannot be entirely criticized as being selfish. Authorities must restore public confidence first by securing fairness in its social distancing measures.
The most assertive have been indoor sports facilities. Fitness and other sports centers have endured a direct blow from government-enforced social distancing. They were ordered to operate until 9 p.m. during the fall resurgence and entirely close down after the winter outbreak.
About 300 or more fitness centers across Seoul, Gyeonggi and Busan opened businesses on Monday, although the shutdown order remains intact for another two weeks. A petition on the Blue House civilian community page calling for a limited or flexible opening of indoor sports facilities gathered 200,000 signatures. The petitioner called for action since sports facilities could face chain bankruptcies. One operator of a rehab gym in Daegu was found dead on Jan. 1. Indoor golf simulator center operators also joined to call for business openings and filed for damages for rents and maintenance cost.
From this week, taekwondo and dance academies were allowed to accept nine students for each class for their day care role. It is why other gym operators are questioning why they cannot reopen business. Sports academy operators also are nervous as they will have to cover the damages if someone gets infected during class.
Authorities try to appease the complainers by saying they will ease the measures if the virus is deemed containable. But an easing upon protest without clear guidelines could aggravate uncertainties and anxieties.
It is pitiful that authorities still fail to identify the features of each facility, although nearly a year has passed since we came to live with Covid-19. There must be scientific grounds on mitigation measures so that controversies do not arise.
Deaths related to the new virus have topped 1,000. President Moon Jae-in remains confident that the country will be an exemplary case on mitigation and cure. Before repeating the success story, he should have expressed mourning for those whose lives have been cut short from the virus.