Dereliction of dutyA cluster of Covid-19 infections is growing among sailors of the Cheonghae unit on a Navy destroyer dispatched to the waters off eastern Africa. In Korea, a growing number of members of the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) tested positive after participating in an illegal rally in Seoul on July 3. The first cluster resulted from the government’s negligence of sailors’ safety while the latter originated with the government’s lax reaction. Basically, both outbreaks can be attributed to the government’s failure to buy vaccines early enough and its incompetent and irresponsible quarantine campaigns.
On the 4,400-ton-class destroyer deployed to the Gulp of Aden in February, 68 sailors tested positive after more than 100 sailors were tested for Covid-19. As over 300 sailors are aboard the ship, the number of cases can still increase. The Ministry of National Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Navy Headquarters are all responsible for the cluster infection on the vessel.
First of all, the Defense Ministry did not draw up any vaccination plan even after the Cheonghae unit arrived at its destination. The military started inoculating soldiers in barracks from April, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not send vaccines to the naval unit. Even after 38 sailors aboard a landing ship tested positive before, the Navy did not prepare safety measures for sailors serving in tight space.
The destroyer is required to call at ports in Africa or the Middle East for refueling and getting other supplies during its six-month mission. But the Navy was not prepared for possible infections from sailors’ contacts with locals. A senior officer who showed symptoms of pneumonia reportedly carried supplies from a local port last month. The opposition People Power Party criticized the government for not vaccinating the sailors — while trying to give vaccines to North Korea.
Such a weird stance of the Moon Jae-in administration can be affirmed by the double standards it applied to the illegal rally by the KCTU. Over 8,000 unionists of the group pushed ahead with it in downtown Seoul and participants tested positive for Covid-19. On Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) hurriedly ordered all of them to get tested, but a public transportation union under the umbrella union threatened to hold a 1,200-member rally in front of the National Health Insurance Service Thursday.
Appearing at a Covid-19 test center in Gangnam Sunday, Moon expressed some regret for repeated breakouts of the coronavirus. We hope the government brings the Chenghae unit sailors back home safely and sternly deals with illegal rallies of the KCTU.