February 18, 2021 13:05
Coronavirus infections around the world have declined markedly as vaccination drives started in many countries, but Korea is witnessing another surge. On Jan. 6-8, more than 800,000 new infections were detected worldwide every day, but that has now fallen to some 260,000. In the U.S., the daily number of cases fell from around 300,000 to 50,000 over the period, in Japan from 6,906 to 1,310, and in the U.K. from 68,053 to just 9,765.
But in Korea, where infections peaked at 1,240 a day late last year, they fell to around 300 during the Lunar New Year holiday but have now surged again to over 600 for two days running. The main reason for this alarming trend is a spate of group infections in factories, religious facilities and hospitals across the country. Since no vaccinations are in sight, concerns are growing over the government's decision to ease lockdown for some hard-hit small businesses. And next month, schools are set to reopen.
The resurgence reaffirms that vaccination is the only solution to the pandemic. Among the 37 member nations of the OECD, 33 are already in the midst of their vaccination drive. Even laggard Japan started administering Pfizer's vaccines on Wednesday. But Korea will not start vaccinations until Feb. 26, the slowest among the four remaining OECD countries. In the meantime Israel has already vaccinated half of its population.
Meanwhile, gaping holes in the quarantine system continue to emerge. The first case of the U.K. variant of coronavirus was detected in Korea late last year. But for almost two months, health authorities insisted on sticking to the existing test method, which takes five to seven days, and the number of variant coronavirus cases surged to 99. Only now are health officials looking at faster test methods. A hard reckoning is coming for the Korean government.
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