Help those in need

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Help those in need

 The self-employed are back to wretchedness after the government retightened its social distancing measures to contain the Covid-19 spread. They are forced back to reduced business hours and stringent mitigation rules after a brief monthlong easing.

The self-employed and shop-keepers vowed to go on a street protest on Wednesday. They were hardly relieved by the government’s plan to compensate each self-employed person and small business owner with 1 million won ($843) through an immediate 4.3-trillion-won aid package. The year-end season is a business peak for diners and entertainment locations. A seafood shop owner at Youngcheon Market in Seoul sighed saying their bookings for the year-end had mostly been canceled.

The Covid-19 situation is ever worsening. Hospital beds have become rare while critically-ill patients topped 1,000. “While the self-employed were sacrificed over the last two years, the government has not even set out to prepare hospital beds,” said Kim Ki-hong, co-head of the nationwide self-employed emergency measure committee.

The self-employed are taking their own lives across the nation — in Mapo District, western Seoul; Wonju, Gangwon; and Yeosu, South Jeolla. They are pushed over the edge after Covid-19 aggravated their woes from a steep increase in the minimum wage. After the normalization phase has been suspended, business operators must take responsibility for regulating unvaccinated customers. They have to turn away aged people who cannot present digital vaccination certificates as they do not own smartphones. Those small merchants have to comply with the harsh rules because they cannot afford to pay fines.

As the March 9 presidential election nears, the government and ruling Democratic Party (DP) could resort to populist spending to appease public anger. Extra spending must not go to civil servants with their pay intact. Instead, the aid must go to the desperate self-employed. If the opposition parties join the populist move, the woes of civilians will only worsen.

The self-employed and small merchants, whose year-end business are ruined because of the government’s frequent policy flip-flops, must receive greater aid. They cannot endure any more after two years of compliance to the government’s draconian distancing rules. The government must find ways to not give disadvantages to business owners who must pay fines for accepting unvaccinated people. Authorities must correct unrealistic measures if they have the compassion for the hard-up self-employed businesses.
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