It’s not over till it’s over

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It’s not over till it’s over

Koreans can entirely go about without wearing face masks outdoors for the first time in two years. Masks are also not compulsory at outdoor concerts, assemblies and sports stadiums with more than 50 people. The Covid-19 pandemic may finally be coming to an end. The daily infection count has fallen to 25,792, the lowest for a Sunday in 11 weeks.

According to public health authorities, 97 percent of the Korean population have antibodies against the Covid-19 virus. The positive rate for antibodies from infection was 57 percent, higher than the accumulated infection rate of 38 percent. The data suggests nearly 10 million have been infected without coming under the government tally.

Many other countries had gone mask-free and eased virus restrictions after hitting a peak in infection earlier than Korea. Normalization of people’s lives was faster than in Korea due to fewer infections in their countries. U.S. President Joe Biden on September 18 declared that the pandemic ended in the United States.

Still, the danger is not entirely gone. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last week against the “dangerous narrative that the pandemic is over,” as there is a possibility of arrivals of more harmful variants in the near future.

The antibody from the Omicron infection will likely start waning from November. Since not many took additional vaccinations, the infection rate could surge and develop to serious illness. In colder weather, the virus can spread faster due to greater indoor activities. Since a new variant could arrive at any time, herd immunity cannot last.

This winter also accompanies the spread of the flu. Influenza patients have increased recently after a hiatus over the last two years under the pandemic. Health experts worry about a “twindemic” during the flu season. Since early symptoms of flu and Covid-19 are similar, there could be confusion.

The public must not think that the Covid-19 threat is over as the mandatory mask wearing has been lifted. Masks and hand sanitization are recommended in a crowded environment. Indoor mask-wearing would have to be lifted eventually, but it could be premature for now. The move can be reviewed when we pass this winter safely.

The lifting of outdoor mask-wearing is just one step toward the normalization of people’s lives. We must not let down our guard against Covid-19. Each citizen must be responsible for one’s and their family health. It’s not over till it’s over.
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