Korea Struggles to Contain Coronavirus Surge

  • By Kim Sung-mo

    July 12, 2021 09:56

    Tougher lockdown kicked in on Monday banning all gatherings and forcing businesses to close again amid a surge of coronavirus infections.

    On Saturday, over 1,300 new infections were reported for the third day running, the highest figure so far for a weekend, when fewer people get tested, and the daily tally reached 1,100 as of Monday morning. Just a week ago, the figure stood at around 700 at the weekend. Most of the new cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area.

    The World Health Organization has warned that Korea could be looking at a "very dangerous fall, with large swaths of the country still unvaccinated." Kim Woo-joo at Korea University Guro Hospital said, "An even bigger wave could be in store during the autumn, when the virus spreads more quickly, if we fail to contain the surge during the summer."

    People line up to get tested for coronavirus at a makeshift facility in Seoul on Sunday. /Newsis

    But the progress of vaccinations has slowed to a crawl due to the government's failure to secure ample vaccines in time while betting only on a crippling lockdown to contain the spread.

    The government claims that 80 million doses of vaccines will arrive in the third quarter but has had to admit repeated setbacks as public anger rises.

    But experts say Koreans may have no choice but to cooperate as their lives are being put on hold yet again. Lee Keun-wha at Hanyang University said, "The government was excessively confident just a month ago that the cases will drop sharply in mid-July and promised a gradual easing of lockdown, but instead tightened lockdown even further."

    Bookings for Moderna vaccine injections for 3.52 million people aged 55 to 59 started on Monday. They are scheduled to get inoculated between July 26 and Aug. 7, but many of them were unable to make their reservations due to too much traffic from the early morning hours.

    People aged 60 to 74 who missed out earlier this year can also get their jab this time. For people aged 50 to 54, injections from Aug. 9 to 21 can be booked from July 19.

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