S. Korea mulls easing social distancing rules

Feb 18, 2022, 09:30 am

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Posts about vaccine pass system on an online community for small business owners with 950,000 members./ Source: online community Galmuri

AsiaToday reporter Lee Sun-young 

As South Korea’s daily COVID-19 cases are rising closer to 100,000, the controversy over the effectiveness of a vaccine pass system is growing, making it difficult for the government to reorganize social distancing rules. Internally, the government thinks that withdrawal is better than maintaining a vaccine pass system if it is ineffective. However, it is struggling to make a decision considering public concerns over withdrawing the vaccine pass. 

According to health authorities on Thursday, the government plans to announce a new social distancing plan on Friday, including whether to withdraw or maintain the vaccine pass system. By comprehensively considering the total number of confirmed cases, seriously ill patients, deaths, and management capacity, the government is considering a plan to relax the current cap on private gatherings of six people and a 9 p.m. curfew on restaurants and cafes nationwide. Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said the government is planning ending the digital check-in system based on QR codes or calling a designated number while maintaining the vaccine pass system.

The government is collecting opinions of experts in the fields of economy, society, self-government, and quarantine, but is having tough time making a final decision due to divided opinions on easing quarantine rules.

Small business owners who have been directly hit by the pandemic is welcoming the government’s easing plan while the medical community is opposing it, citing the possibility of an explosion in the number of confirmed cases and the collapse of the medical system.

An online small business owner community with 950,000 members was filled with posts criticizing the government’s social distancing rules. Some wrote comments such as “Why is the government keep insisting its vaccine pass system or social distancing rules? They proved to be ineffective,” “They said 70 to 80 percent of vaccination would end the pandemic, but now they are talking about getting a fourth shot,” and more.

Hwang Hyun-mok, chairperson of the Sejong City Small Business Administration, held a small business operators rally near the finance ministry on Wednesday, and said, “The pandemic of more than two years is seriously affecting small business owners. The government’s 9 pm ban forces small business owners to sacrifice.”

On the other hand, the medical community is concerned about the collapse of the medical system and is opposed to the easing of social distancing rules. The proportion of omicron cases are doubling every week, affecting the severity and fatality rate. The country reported 93,135 new COVID-19 infections, continuing the 90,000 level for two days in a row. The number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients came to 389, up 76 from a day earlier. 

“Infections among workers and patients are rapidly increasing at senior care centers, nursing hospitals, and psychiatric institutions,” said professor Lee Jae-gap of Hallym University Medical Center. 

KDCA chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said, “The governments’ easing of social distancing rules will give signs to the public that it is okay to expand social activities.”

#social distancing rules #vaccine pass 
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