A confused responseThe number of new infections of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 soared to more than 50,000 for five consecutive days until Monday. As critically-ill patients also shot up to more than 300 after 17 days, ICU beds are being filled up. As a result, the government has decided to hurry fourth vaccine shots for high-risk groups, including those with underlying diseases. The government also plans to give a fourth shot to the elderly at day care centers, and workers at those facilities, from the end of February, while holding back on calling for fourth shots for the entire population.
The problem is a lack of clear direction or strategy by public health authorities. The government’s unpreparedness for the dominant new variant has exacerbated the pain and inconvenience felt by the public. Yet no official has apologized for the worsening situation.
The government’s repeated flip-flops only deepen public confusion. Shortly after announcing a plan to manage the coronavirus like a seasonal flu, the government reversed its position. It even promised to ease social distancing rules as early as this Friday. With 100,000 daily cases expected this weekend, medical experts warn against relaxing the guidelines. Political pundits attribute it to the government’s political considerations ahead of the March 9 presidential election.
Small merchants and the self-employed have threatened to stage a massive rally on Gwanghwamun Square today to denounce the government for its draconian approach to Covid-19. They will demand a scrapping of restrictions on their business operating hours and retroactive, 100 percent compensation for their losses. Their demands are natural given the lesser health threat from the Omicron variant.
In the meantime, unstable supplies of Covid test kits fuel public anxiety. The government is allowing people to buy up to five kits per person from pharmacies and convenience stores from Sunday. But the kits are being traded at much higher prices as online sales are banned from Thursday. The government anticipated the domination of the Omicron variant early on, but you’d hardly know it from the price being paid by the people.
The government must focus on tackling new cases and treating over 210,000 patients at home. An increasing number of people are complaining about the lack of government care for them. The government must fix the medical system involving neighborhood hospitals and clinics before it is too late.