Covid-19 out of controlRegrettably, Korea sets one shameful record after another with Covid-19. The number of people newly infected with the coronavirus reached a record-high 621,328 on Thursday. After positive cases omitted a day earlier due to administrative problems were included in Thursday’s tally, the number increased 220,000 in just a day. As a result, more than 8 million people have been infected so far. The latest surge in positive cases owed much to the change Monday in testing methods, which classifies positive cases from rapid antigen tests (RAT) as Covid-19 cases even without PCR tests. A total of 11,481 citizens have died, including 429 on Thursday alone.
We cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. The government expected the pandemic to reach a peak between March 16 and 22 of 310,000 to 370,000 positive cases a day. As the pace of the spread exceeded the government’s forecast, however, a peak will be delayed and positive cases will grow.
The number of critically-ill patients has stayed in four digits for 10 consecutive days since it topped 1,000 on March 8. (It is anticipated to surpass 1,800 on March 23.) As nearly 2 million people are under home treatment due to drastic spikes in positive cases, it seriously puts our medical systems to a test.
Public health authorities attributed the surge to eased quarantine rules after the fatality rate of the dominant Omicron variant was proven lower than for other variants. “We are at the threshold of a transition to normal lives by minimizing the critically-ill people and their deaths from Covid-19,” said the authorities. But their explanations fell short of public expectations. Despite a critical lack of treatments and all the confusion at hospitals, the government only reiterates, “The Omicron variant is just as potent as a flu.” We have never seen any flu infect as many as 600,000 people per day and kill hundreds of people each day.
After patting himself on the back for a long time, President Moon Jae-in is keeping out of sight. Despite a dramatic increase in positive cases that defies her earlier estimates, Jeong Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), stays mum. She should consider coming forward to apologize. As Moon’s term nears an end, no one wants to take responsibility.
Given the inevitability of eased social distancing rules, we still wonder why the government takes such action at this time. Choi Jae-wook, a professor of preventive medicine at Korea University, accused the government of rushing to ease public health guidelines ahead of the March 9 presidential election. “If the government had kept to the existing rules, positive cases would have reached a peak in late February or early May,” he said. Nevertheless, the government is bent on easing regulations while advising citizens to test themselves and buy drugs if their symptoms get worse. What is the KDCA doing?