A wave approaches

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A wave approaches

 The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has decided to keep social distancing regulations at level 2 for another week in the capital region after new daily cases of Covid-19 hit 1,212 on Wednesday, the largest number since Dec. 25. Putting off a relaxation expected for Thursday may not be enough to respond to another wave. Stronger action may be needed to curb the spread of the virus.

A letting down of our guard is partly to blame for this cresting wave. The government has been promising to ease mitigation rules — to bring back a sense of normalcy — for a month. Those kind of promises may have been necessary to encourage people to get vaccinated. As incentives to encourage people to get the jabs, exemptions to mask-wearing and isolation upon arrival from abroad were promised. Public vigilance also sagged a bit upon expectations of a return to normal life after vaccination.

In a breakfast meeting on June 30, President Moon Jae-in was once again in a self-congratulatory mood while explaining his recent overseas trip for a G7 summit. But soon after, daily counts shot up to 800 and finally this week went above 1,000. The Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) went ahead with a weekend mass rally in downtown Seoul despite pleas from the prime minister to desist. As many as 8,000 people were set to congregate in central Seoul on July 3, and the Blue House did not take preemptive action to prevent it. Only after the count surged above 1,000 did the president declare no tolerance for violation of mitigation rules.

New variants have been posing a threat for a while now, and yet authorities kept to their plan to ease social distancing measures. They hurriedly decided to put that plan off only a day before the easing was to take place.

A warning from KDCA Director Jung Eun-kyeong went largely ignored. The KCDA’s scientific knowledge should come before the political reasoning of the Blue House.

We must not let down our guard even after inoculation. People are still masked in Israel despite a 60 percent vaccination rate. Vaccinations and social distancing must go hand-in-hand. The vaccine program must be administered as quickly as possible. Society must tighten up once again. Late-night partying outdoors and binge parties in cities with lighter mitigation rules are irresponsible. Public fatigue is large and patience thin, but the battle is not done.
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