May 09, 2023 11:12
Health authorities in Korea are accused of dragging their heels in declaring the coronavirus pandemic over as many advanced countries have downgraded the threat to the same level as seasonal flu and lifted all restrictions.
Korea will not declare the endemic until July, but a government official said, "We expect to declare the end of the pandemic and scrap all quarantine requirements after next year."
Japan decided to handle COVID-19 like a seasonal flu starting on Monday, while the U.S. ends its national health emergency this Thursday and will no longer cover test and treatment costs.
There is no clear standard for determining the end of an epidemic, but it usually depends on the availability of vaccines and cures.
Some experts here accuse the government of being unprepared to take that step. The vaccination rate has fallen below the U.S. and U.K.'s, and the government apparently does not want to be blamed if another surge in infections occurs.
Constant ups and downs in reported new COVID cases are also causing a headache. According to the World Health Organization, the cumulative number of cases in Korea stood at 31.18 million as of May 3, placing Korea in eighth place in the world after the U.S., China, India, France, Germany, Brazil and Japan.
But over the past week, Korea reported 61,874 new cases, second only to the U.S.' 86,484 with a much bigger population. New infections continue to be found in parts of Southeast Asia.
Kim Woo-joo at Korea University Guro Hospital said, "Vaccinations are the best protection, but Korea has failed to come up with an adequate vaccine strategy, and as a result the vaccination rate here, which used to be the highest in the world, has fallen below even levels in the U.K. and U.S."
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