'Vaccine pass' plan draws both opposition and support

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'Vaccine pass' plan draws both opposition and support

People wait in line to get tested at a mobile Covid-19 testing clinic at Garak Market in eastern Seoul following a massive virus outbreak at the market. [YONHAP]

People wait in line to get tested at a mobile Covid-19 testing clinic at Garak Market in eastern Seoul following a massive virus outbreak at the market. [YONHAP]

 
The government's plan to introduce a Covid “vaccine pass” and restrict the access of unvaccinated people to restaurants and bars has sparked debate in Korea.
 
A petition titled “I oppose the vaccine pass” was filed on the Blue House website Wednesday, the day the government announced that it is in the “administrative stage” of coming up with a vaccine pass, or a type of Covid health pass similar to those being used overseas. If such a system is introduced, unvaccinated people won’t be allowed in bars and theaters and won't be able to participating in certain events unless they present a negative Covid test result.
 
“Vaccines are not the answer to the current situation,” the petitioner wrote.
 
"Even now, unvaccinated people get pressure from work and society […] and restricting the entry of certain groups can be subject to lawsuits for violating the Constitution due to social division and infringement of basic human rights," the petition added. "Vaccinated people can also get infected with Covid-19 and spread the virus, so how will the country handle the damage caused by limiting group life only for unvaccinated people?”
 
“People come first, before Covid,” the petitioner said. “It’s not too late to look at the current situation. Don’t turn away from the voices of the people.”
 
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the petition obtained virtual signatures from over 20,000 people and is undergoing an administrative review.
 
Aside from the petitioner, 51-year-old Yoon said, "In my case, I have an underlying heart-related disease and should not get vaccinated."
 
"Even if one chooses to remain unvaccinated, the country should respect their personal choices. I don't understand why they're forcing it on us."
 
On the other hand, 56-year-old Seo defended the passes, saying, “If owners of small businesses or people working in the service sector, who are already suffering from the pandemic, get further financial damage from the continuous social distancing, it would inevitably affect the national economy."
 
“We should shift into the ‘With Corona’ strategy at an appropriate time,” Seo said. “The prerequisite for living with Covid-19 is getting the public vaccinated, and vaccine passes are worth considering as a carrot-and-stick approach.”
 
Health authorities avoided responding directly to the objections and public controversy.
 
“The plan for a phased restoration of normal life, including vaccine passes, has yet to be finalized,” Kim Ki-nam, the director of the task force's vaccination planning, said during a briefing Thursday. “We are in the process of reviewing overseas cases, discussing with experts and collecting domestic opinions.”
 
Earlier in the day, the authorities explained that the introduction of such a system is being considered as part of reducing the number of infections in unvaccinated people, which is a key step toward the country’s preparation for an era of coping with Covid-19.
 
“What must be premised for a [recovery to normal life] is a low ratio of infections among unvaccinated people,” Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said in a press briefing on Thursday.
 
"As the possibility of vaccinated people getting critically ill and dying of Covid is low, the amount of infections of unvaccinated people, especially of the elderly, will be directly linked to the rate of severe illness and death,” Son said.
 
Meanwhile, Korea recorded more than 2,500 Covid-19 cases, the highest daily figure reported on a Thursday, amid a continued resurgence in infections after the Chuseok holidays.
 
The country reported 2,564 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, including 2,539 local infections, bringing the total caseload to 311,289, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
 
The last seven days have set new record-highs for each day of the week.
 
While new distancing measures are set to be announced Friday, health authorities are likely to extend the current distancing rules, the toughest that have been in place for more than two months, for another few weeks.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]
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