The chaos continuesA level of confusion is sweeping across the Covid-19 battlefield just a week after the government shifted its quarantine policy to emphasize home treatment. After the number of daily infections nearly doubled each week, medical staff are struggling to deal with rising numbers of patients.
The problem was reaffirmed in remarks by Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Yoo Geun-heag, who tested positive recently. Appearing on television Wednesday, he confessed that he had received a prescription from places other than two hospitals in his neighborhood because he could not manage to talk to anyone over the phone. The vice minister also sympathized with ordinary patients who experience problems with home treatment for the disease. The episode explicitly shows all the confusion the public is experiencing in trying to communicate with doctors and get prescriptions.
Administrative counseling service centers for home treatment, which the Central Disaster Management Headquarters ordered local governments to operate for patients, are part of the problem. Nine out of 31 local municipalities in Gyeonggi Province have been criticized for lacking support for effective operations. As a result, workers at public health centers across the country have to return home in the early morning after wrestling with incoming calls until midnight. A public health center official even posted a message saying, “We are humans too,” on the Blue House website.
The government’s flip-flops on quarantine measures are nothing new. After pushing for students to go to school but only after testing negative, the Ministry of Education hurriedly changed the guideline from “obligation” to “recommendation” in the face of strong resistance from parents.
Most of the chaos can be attributed to the government. Despite medical experts’ repeated warnings of the real number of infections reaching up to five times the figure announced by the government, it does not seem to care. Instead, the government only underscores how smooth its transition to dealing with the Omicron variant and treatment at home has been. After hinting at the possibility of easing restrictions on the size of private gatherings from six to eight persons and of extending restaurants and cafes’ operating hours to 10 p.m., the government will announce new guidelines today.
The problem is whether it has established an effective system to deal with the rising number of coronavirus cases. Some experts expect the number of daily cases to soar to 300,000. The government must find some feasible ways to cope with a dramatic increase in patients by learning from other countries that eased regulations already.