Emergency measures neededKorea’s Covid-19 situation is deteriorating one month after the government started its “With Corona” policy from November 1, which was after the rate of full vaccinations went over 70 percent of the population. The number of daily cases exceeded 5,000 on Wednesday for the first time and the number of critically ill Covid-19 patients surpassed 700, even more than the 500 the government said it could handle. As a result, hospital beds are in short supply. The Moon Jae-in administration wants patients with moderate symptoms to be treated at home, but medical staff to care for them are in short supply.
Worse, anxiety over the Omicron variant is deepening. A Korean couple from Nigeria may have been infected with the new variant. A diplomat infected with the variant also had a layover at Incheon International Airport Wednesday before returning to Japan.
Nevertheless, the government’s response is not impressive. When it launched the “With Corona” campaign a month ago, the government mentioned the possibility of more Covid cases than before and promised to fully prepare enough hospital beds. In a televised appearance on Nov. 21, President Moon Jae-in said the government had anticipated an increase in daily cases. And yet, it is floundering as if hit by a truck.
The government is pressuring big general hospitals to increase the number of ICU beds for critically-ill Covid-19 patients. But that can seriously affect patients hospitalized for other diseases. General hospitals are complaining.
All of that underscores the need for special measures to secure enough ICU beds to treat critically-ill Covid patients. Medical professionals propose that some of the hospitals be designated for their treatment. A professor of respiratory diseases pointed to the need to relocate patients at the National Medical Center to other hospitals and dispatch doctors and nurses to the center to focus on dealing with critically-ill Covid patients. Another professor suggested the idea of using empty hospitals or gymnasiums to treat seriously ill patients. The government must make some decisions as soon as possible.
At the same time, the administration must change its public health measures to reflect reality in the field. Previous guidelines on social distancing are far less effective since the full vaccination rate has surpassed 80 percent in Korea.
Given the alarming spread of Omicron variants across the globe, the government must expand an earlier ban on entry from eight African countries. Considering Japan and Israel’s complete ban on the entry of foreigners, the government must take preemptive action to prevent the country from heading into a new health crisis.