April 07, 2021 12:58
Lockdown discipline appears to be breaking down as the government scrambles to contain a fresh surge in coronavirus infections amid glacial progress in vaccination.
The public has had to endure frequent government harangues over the past week that seemed to pin the blame for the mess firmly on them, but it is true that lockdown rules are increasingly being ignored.
One BBQ restaurant in downtown Seoul was filled with customers at lunchtime on Monday, and at least on one table they gathered in a group of more than four, which is the current limit.
The owner and other patrons were oblivious to the infraction. One 34-year-old office worker in the restaurant said, "There are five members in our office team and we don't want to split up into two groups, and we can't leave one of our members behind."
The owner of a nearby restaurant, said, "I know we can't let parties of five or more people sit together, but I'm sick of the rules and so are my customers. I am aware of the fact that this is a violation, but I'll end up going bankrupt if I obey them."
Weddings are also coming back. One 30-year-old office worker said, "I've been postponing my wedding since last year and I finally made reservations for May. You see lots of people going to department stores, election rallies and labor protests, so why should weddings be an exception?"
One wedding hall in southern Seoul is fully booked this weekend. A staffer at another wedding hall in central Seoul said, "We're fully booked on weekends in April and May."
A 26-year-old who went to a friend's wedding late last month said, "At first, everyone seemed cautious and was reluctant to go see the bride, but after the ceremony everyone gathered together to take photos."
Chun Eun-mi at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital said, "People seem to have had enough of lockdown extensions, but vaccine effects won't become apparent until the second half of this year, so a systematic quarantine plan is necessary."
Thanks to Korean discipline so far, infection numbers are strikingly low at around 600 a day compared to tens of thousands in European countries and the U.S.
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