It’s all about leadershipFor the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Korea in January 2020, the number of daily cases exceeded 2,000 as a result of the government’s ineffective public health measures and the rapid spread of the Delta variant. Coupled with repeated delays in vaccines, Korea faces its worst crisis yet. Oh Myoung-don, chairman of the Central Clinical Committee for Emerging Disease Control, said that forming herd immunity is impossible due to the Delta variant even if 70 percent of Koreans are fully vaccinated. It is time for the government to totally review its public health and vaccine policies. But the biggest problem is untrustworthy leadership by the government in an uphill battle against Covid-19.
After daily cases went over 2,223 on Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in expressed some worries and attributed it to a “global phenomenon originating from the Delta variant spread.” He went on to say that Korea’s situation is still better than other countries. He took no responsibility and made no apology for the worsening situation here.
On July 12, Moon promised to finish the crisis as quickly as possible after raising social distancing measures to the highest Level 4. But the government failed to control the spread and vaccination schedules were delayed over and over due to a critical lack of vaccine supplies. At times of crisis, a government must ease public anxiousness, but our government couldn’t. People want to know what happens if the four-week interval between first and second Moderna shots is extended to six weeks due to a dearth of supplies. Yet Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), kept mum. If the Moderna vaccination schedule is to be delayed to the Chuseok holidays, she should have admitted the change in advance.
Despite the fact that Korea is ranked at the bottom among OECD member nations in its overall vaccination rate, Moon pledged to advance the date for herd immunity before Chuseok on September 21 by completing first jabs for 36 million people. We wonder if he really knows that people can get the virus even if they are fully vaccinated.
A government should make promises it can keep. Despite the scarcity of vaccines, Moon comes up with one rosy promise after another. He vowed to make Korea one of the top five vaccine producers by 2025 while patting himself on the back all along. That only deepens public distrust in the government. In the meantime, the self-employed are increasingly outraged over the government’s ineffective ban on private gatherings of more than two after 6 p.m.
We are saddened by medical professionals’ warnings that we have not reached the peak of the pandemic yet. The government must face reality and make related information public to the people. It must fix its wrong public health and vaccine policies before it’s too late.