It’s up to usKorea has begun a tentative journey toward normal life 652 days after the first case of Covid-19 was found and 249 days after vaccinations began. According to the final plan announced by Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum on Friday, life in Korea changes dramatically from today. Public rallies are permitted and private events like weddings and birthday parties also are allowed based on the number of fully vaccinated. In addition, regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not, you can have a gathering of up to 10 people in the capital area and a maximum 12 in other regions.
We cannot welcome these changes wholeheartedly due to potential risks. The government’s decision to ease social distancing rules in three steps over the next four weeks reflects its concerns about unwanted repercussions.
A case in point is Halloween this past weekend. A crowd of people gathered in Itaewon from Saturday. Social media showed a number of photos of Koreans and foreigners in front of pubs and restaurants in Halloween costumes without face masks. Social distancing guidelines were not kept at all, raising the possibility of a repeat of the nightmare of a cluster of infections that began in a club in Itaewon.
The government’s decision to enforce the first stage of eased regulations from 5 a.m. Monday — not from midnight — reflects its concerns about a resurgence. Just a day before the “With Corona” policies begin, daily cases hovered over 2,000.
The government had to take the path toward a “With Corona” plan because of the need to reduce the economic fallout from tough restrictions. The scorecards of developed countries vary. The United Kingdom started its “With Covid” lifestyle after its vaccination rate topped 70 percent, but saw more than 40,000 new cases each day. In densely-populated Singapore, Israel and the Netherlands, the pandemic spread despite inoculations. Japan started new policies a month ago, but saw the number of new cases decrease. Tokyo plans to give a booster shot to every citizen. Our government must learn lessons from the countries that took the path before.
Medical professionals warn about the possibility of a rapid surge in cases just two to three weeks from now. Many of them also warn about breakthrough infections. It is not the time to lower our guard. Even after the transition to the “With Corona” policies, a high vaccination rate is still crucial. After the global spread of the Delta variant, in particular, we must abide by basic public health rules, including wearing masks and washing hands, if our living with Covid-19 is to be a success. It’s all up to us.