April 06, 2021 12:26
Health and Welfare Minister Kwon Deok-cheol in a statement on Sunday threatened Koreans restaurants, bars and other businesses with "zero tolerance" if they violate lockdown rules. Interior and Safety Minister Jeon Hae-cheol also announced an "intensive crackdown" on violators. The dire warnings came as daily coronavirus infections rose above 500 for several days in a row amid widespread lockdown fatigue.
But is the government in any position to blame the public? In countries that moved quickly to secure enough vaccines, life is already beginning to return to normal, and the population are not being treated like criminals. Israel, which has already achieved full vaccination, allowed soldiers to remove their face masks on Monday, and the U.K., which has vaccinated about 54 percent of the population, plans to lift bans on football matches and performances soon. The U.S. too has already inoculated 100 million of its people. But only a measly 1.85 percent of Koreans had been vaccinated by Sunday, which puts the country in a pathetic 98th place in the world rankings. Already some countries are discussing a quarantine waiver for foreigners who can prove they have been vaccinated. Korea will be isolated.
The current crisis is entirely the government's fault. It failed to secure enough coronavirus vaccines. Other countries managed to get their hands on large volumes of different vaccines and took their differing effects, safety and storage requirements into account. The Korean government was unable to do this, yet now it has the nerve to claim that this offers the untold advantage of watching other people's side effects. To cover up the shortage, the government is deliberately administering vaccines at a snail's pace to make it look as if there are plentiful supplies. If the country is to achieve herd immunity, people need to get their shots quickly before immunity disappears again in those who got their jabs first. But at this rate, it is doubtful the country can ever achieve herd immunity, let alone by November as the government wants, so Koreans may still be shuffling around in their masks at this time next year.
Quarantine rules must be obeyed, but how can an unapologetic government expect people to cooperate? Threats are wholly inappropriate, and the fresh lockdown extension is seriously testing people's patience. Is the government proposing to do anything constructive other than crack down on rule breakers? What will officials say if the public decides to apply a zero-tolerance policy to them?
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