Who are you waiting for?The Covid-19 situation is quickly turning into an emergency in Korea after 7,850 daily cases and 964 critical patients were recorded on Wednesday. The pandemic endlessly tests our medical capabilities. Hospitals across the country look like a battlefield. One critically-ill patient after another is dying due to a lack of ICU beds. If ICU beds are available, patients die while waiting for ambulances. Even if they take an ambulance, they must return home because hospitals cannot accept them. Even ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung demanded extraordinary measures to tackle the challenge.
The country is poised to return to the draconian distancing rules one and half months after the government started the first phase of its “Living with Covid” policy from Nov. 1. Not only our medical systems, but also the new “vaccine pass” system collapsed on Tuesday — the first day of the government enforcing it. Effective measures to address the crash are hardly visible. And yet, the government threatens to impose up to 3 million won ($2,500) in fines for business owners who do not comply with the new rule.
Restaurant owners are perplexed over customers who complain about the technical glitches in the system and health authorities threatening to levy fines on them. Opposition People Power Party (PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol criticized the government for blaming the people instead of taking responsibility. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum apologized, but it didn’t feel sincere.
The government’s reaction to the pandemic followed the same patterns. When it came up with new measures, a serious problem occurred. After citizens denounced the government, the prime minister said sorry. If that pattern is repeated over and over, there should be improvement. But no progress has been made and no government official takes responsibility.
We are also embarrassed at the inaction even after the colossal failure of the “Living with Covid” campaign. Officials were only waiting for President Moon Jae-in to return late Wednesday from a trip overseas. Why are they waiting for Moon when the family members of the 94 people who died yesterday had to say farewell to their parents and children without seeing their faces?
President Moon expected the number of daily cases to increase to 10,000. But our medical system showed cracks when the number soared to 5,000. There is no time to waste if the government does not want to see a repeat of the suffering of the self-employed and mom-and-pop store owners.