Shifting the blameAn administrative official in the Blue House tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday. The number of cases is setting new records after 1,615 new cases were reported Wednesday. If the current pace continues, daily cases are expected to exceed 2,000 pretty soon.
The Delta variant has already become a major threat to Korea. The Delta variant, which has been common in India, may spread two to three times faster than the first strain of the coronavirus. We seriously wonder if President Moon Jae-in can really keep his promise to curtail this fourth wave of infections with the Level 4 social distancing rules for two weeks.
Except for the strict ban on private gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m. from Monday, the new four-tiered social distancing guidelines are milder than the earlier five-level set of rules. The new guidelines were drawn up with vaccinations seemed to be proceeding at a fast pace, and herd immunity was likely sooner rather than later. If the new distancing rules — proposed by Blue House vaccine czar Ki Mo-ran and approved by the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters last month — cannot block the spread of the fourth wave, the government may have to come up with preemptive special measures to control the spread.
As a result of the government’s rearranging of social distancing rules, Level 4 distancing rules are applied in the greater Seoul area while Level 2 distancing rules are applied in Sejong Administrative City, South and North Jeolla Provinces, and North Gyeongsang Province, and Level 1 rules in the remaining areas from Thursday. The divergent distancing levels can cause confusion. The imminent summer vacation for students also can cause trouble. If the government wants to minimize the spread of this virus from Seoul to other parts of the country, it needs to narrow the gap in distancing rules among regions.
After people in their 50s could not make online reservation for vaccines Monday due to a website crash and a shortage of vaccines, Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), apologized. Fortunately, the KDCA resumed online reservations for the age group between 55 and 59 Wednesday. But due to a dearth of vaccines, the agency had to split the age group between 50 and 54 into two. Korea’s vaccination campaign has been outpaced by Japan’s now.
Appearing before the National Assembly Tuesday, the KCDA chief took responsibility for helping trigger the fourth wave by sending a mixed message to the public by announcing revised distancing guidelines. But the Blue House is trying to shift the responsibility to “all of us,” as President Moon said. We remember what he said in July 2017, two months after taking office. “The Blue House has no grounds for denying its responsibility when grave disasters take place,” he said.