Buy more vaccinesAfter the introduction of the toughest Level 4 social distancing rules for two weeks from Monday in the greater Seoul area, President Moon Jae-in said the measures are aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic with “short and stringent measures” and without lockdowns. On Monday, he apologized for asking for “more patience again” from the people. His apology came 12 days after he patted himself on the back for the efficacy of the so-called “K-quarantine.”
Could the president’s plan to control the spread of the virus in just two weeks come true? In a nutshell, skepticism overweighs optimism. If the government wants to reduce Covid-19 cases with Level 4 guidelines, both strong quarantine measures and speedy vaccinations enough to outpace the rapid spread of the delta variant must follow at the same time.
But Koreans are suffering a critical shortage of Covid-19 vaccines. The government started taking reservations for Moderna vaccines from Monday from people aged between 55 and 59, but that had to be stopped after 14 hours because there weren’t enough vaccines to meet demand. After that particular age group rushed to apply for appointments, the website froze.
After the liberal administration’s failure to purchase vaccines in the initial stages was highlighted in December, Moon himself talked with Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on the phone before cameras and boasted that he acquired 40 million doses of the vaccine and advanced the date of shipments from the third quarter of 2021 to the second quarter.
However, only 465,000 doses of Moderna vaccines arrived in Korea by July 9. The amount accounts for only 1.2 percent of what the government promised to receive. A delay in vaccine deliveries can directly risk public health. Even as the delta variant of the virus spreads even faster, only 30.4 percent of the entire Korean population has received a first shot. Only 400 people were able to get their first jabs on Sunday.
That’s not all. Level 4 distancing rules are fueling a lot of confusion. The government started to regulate the background music for aerobic and Zumba dance classes. What are the standards here? We also wonder why more than two passengers cannot take a taxi from 6 p.m. when there is no limit to the number of passengers for buses and subways.
Public health authorities must explain why such ridiculous distancing rules are needed. The government must fix them as soon as possible. If it really does not want the public to suffer more, it must act wisely before it’s too late.
The key is, of course, a simultaneous success in both public health measures like social distancing and vaccinations.