[Editorial] First-dose vaccinations to hit 70%, but maintaining countermeasures still vital

한겨레 입력 2021. 9. 13. 18:06
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Even with vaccine rates on target, complying with virus curbs is more important than ever if we want to move closer to a return to normalcy
People in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, walk past a banner produced by the city’s Disease and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters advising limiting travel home over the Chuseok holiday one week away. (Yonhap News)

The story of a businessperson reported on by Korean media on Sunday speaks to the tragedies of the pandemic era.

Yonhap News reported that a small business owner in their 50s ended their life after the pandemic made it impossible to keep up with rent and wages. The businessperson had been in the pub business for more than two decades at the time of their suicide.

Shortly before their death, the businessperson borrowed money from friends and moved out of their studio apartment so they could make payroll one last time. Former employees flocked to the wake of the deceased out of gratitude for the businessperson’s efforts to provide employee welfare.

This incident demonstrates the need to compensate private business owners for their losses and restore normal routines.

We can take some consolation from the fact that the vaccination rate, which is critical to overcoming COVID-19, is staying on target.

As of Sunday evening, a total of 33,130,333 people had received at least one vaccine dose, representing 64.5% of the total population. That puts Korea ahead of the US and Japan, which began their vaccination programs earlier.

At the current rate of vaccination, the government is set to reach its goal of having 70% of the public vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before the Chuseok holiday.

But only 20,036,176 of the population is fully vaccinated, representing 39% of the total. The government believes that the full vaccination rate will approach 50% in September, but we must keep working to raise the vaccination rate.

While vaccinations are increasing, the infection rate remains high. The seven-day rolling average for new cases in the greater Seoul area set a pandemic record of 1,234. The Seoul area has accounted for 74% of domestic transmissions of COVID-19 for the past three days.

We need to prepare thoroughly for the possibility of infections in the Seoul area spilling over into other parts of the country during the upcoming Chuseok holiday. The government had adjusted the social distancing rules by allowing private gatherings of up to eight people, as long as fully vaccinated individuals are present. Something else that sets this Chuseok apart from previous holidays during the pandemic is the pervasiveness of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The need to minimize visits to relatives and to strictly adhere to COVID-19 restrictions over the holiday cannot be overemphasized.

The government predicts that the daily caseload will peak around 2,000-2,300 on Sept. 20, then enter a decline. Needless to say, that presumes that the vaccination campaign stays on track and that COVID-19 restrictions are complied with over Chuseok.

That would let Korean society move one step closer to finding a way to learn to live with COVID-19. It’s time for us to make one final push to restore normal routines as we remember how much our neighbors have suffered during the pandemic.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

ⓒ 한겨레신문사, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지

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