Science, not politicsThe number of deaths (94) and critically-ill patients (906) from Covid-19 hit new records Tuesday, not to mention the largest number of daily cases on a Monday. The Omicron variant is also spreading. On November 21, President Moon Jae-in said the government was prepared for up to 10,000 daily cases, but we wonder what it has prepared for.
The government seems to be blindsided since starting its “Living with Covid-19” policy from Nov. 1. On Oct. 8, more than 20,000 beds were prepared in community treatment centers, but the number decreased to 6,934 on Nov. 28. Instead, the government expanded the scope of treatment at home for people older than 78 with no or light symptoms after considering the high vaccination rates.
An increase in daily cases was expected. Managing critically-ill patients is top priority, but there are only 1,288 ICU beds across the country. As 1,053 beds, or 81.8 percent, were occupied as of Tuesday, 1,481 patients are waiting for admission. While waiting for ICU beds, 29 patients died from Oct. 31 to Dec. 4.
The crash Monday of the vaccine pass system owed a lot to the government’s poor preparations. The technical glitch continued for a few hours. The same mistakes as in the initial stages of our inoculation program are being repeated again and again.
In the meantime, health authorities are carefully watching for a reaction from the Blue House. Though the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) insisted on reinforcing social distancing measures at a proper time, Moon did not want a retreat to tough social distancing rules, according to a senior official. Moon made clear there would be no backing down whatsoever last month.
Nevertheless, the president changed his mind shortly before daily cases exceeded 7,000 for the first time after recording more than 5,000 daily cases for several days. On Dec. 7, he mentioned his government would reinforce social distancing measures. His faulty timing led to a drastic surge in cases and a sharp increase in critically-ill patients and fatalities due to lack of medical help.
Of course, it is difficult to return to the draconian distancing rules as in the past given the hardship and fatigue of the self-employed and the public. But if the government had arranged enough ICU beds and given booster shots to the elderly early on, it could have prevented this crisis. A response to a pandemic must be based on science, not politics. Moon must listen to medical professionals’ advice rather than relying on his political instincts.