The government and society of South Korea are trying to solve an extremely difficult task, trying to stop the coronavirus in their country in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time returning to normal life as much as possible, since the people are already tired of restrictions, and the economy is in crisis.
If we assess the situation that has developed in South Korea over the past few weeks, we can state that gradually the “third wave” of the coronavirus, which peaked a month and a half ago, is dying down. More recently, at the end of December last year, an absolute record was recorded in South Korea for the number of infected per day – 1,240 people per day. It is possible that many countries would envy such an indicator, but for Korea, which in the summer of 2020 hoped to defeat COVID-19, this was the reason for introducing emergency social distancing measures.
As a result, the quick reaction of the authorities, as well as the conscientiousness of Koreans, who overwhelmingly follow the instructions of the government and comply with the imposed restrictions, played a role. Gradually, the wave of COVID-19 began to decline and in recent days has fluctuated around 300-500 infected per day.
At the same time, it was possible to reverse the situation that threatened a general crisis, when the isolators for those infected with the coronavirus were overcrowded, new temporary boxes had to be urgently deployed, and the doctors collapsed from fatigue. After all, the total number of those who are currently in hospitals is only slightly more than eight thousand, the proportion of those who recovered has exceeded 88 percent, and the mortality rate, as it has always been, is at a very low level – less than two percent.
Several series of random tests for the presence of antibodies, which is perceived as an indicator of the proportion of those who turned out to be infected, but were not detected, in Korea is also extremely low – only a few out of thousands of tested ones are detected. Experts admit that in order to obtain more objective data, it is necessary to conduct more extensive testing for antibodies, but the general picture is clear: the South Korean authorities have time to isolate and suppress new foci, and hidden carriers, which without knowing it, can spread COVID-19, provoking new outbreaks , very little. In general, the system is doing well.
True, despite all the efforts of the authorities, it has not yet been possible to achieve a constant decrease in the number of new infections and a complete victory over COVID-19. Every time it seemed that the number of new infections was about to be counted in units, as a result, sooner or later a new outbreak occurred. So it is now: free testing for coronavirus, free treatment in state hospitals, a system for total tracking of all possible contacts of infected people and other measures allow you to contain, once reduce, but do not allow you to fully cope with the coronavirus. Therefore, the South Korean authorities do not relax, considering that the current 300-500 people per day are not a reason for calming down and everything can change for the worse very quickly.
At the same time, we have to solve another problem. Korea has lived in conditions of coronavirus for over a year, but, as far as can be judged, it is too early to talk about abandoning social distancing measures.
Koreans, on the whole, are very law-abiding and “conscientious” in an amicable way, are already tired of such a situation when it is impossible to meet normally, communicate, and hold various events. The mask mode of the inhabitants of the Country of morning freshness, as far as one can judge, does not bother. Residents of the Asian state even before the coronavirus regularly wore masks, and therefore this innovation within the framework of the “new reality” was given relatively simple and is observed very well.
On the other hand, although Korea has never introduced a total lockdown or completely closed restaurants, the inevitable restrictions on the operation of various establishments are making themselves felt and fatigue from such measures accumulates. Parents have long been tired of the fact that children cannot learn in a normal way, and lectures on the Internet cannot replace ordinary communication with a teacher. Many are burdened by restrictions that do not allow gathering more than four in one company. This also applies to meetings of relatives if they do not live together. Because of this restriction, on the lunar New Year holiday celebrated in Korea today, many were forced to refuse to meet with relatives living in other regions. And this holiday in Korea is one of the two most important.
The owners of restaurants, bars, karaoke, gyms, fitness clubs, cafes began to regularly organize protests demanding that the restrictions be lifted. They can also be understood: at best, they work in a limited mode, and many still cannot accept clients. As a result, the small business was covered by a tsunami of bankruptcies, the owners began to threaten to stop paying taxes and defiantly work in spite of the bans, believing that “you will not be fined all the same.”
The government has already spent tens of billions of dollars to help businessmen and others affected by the crisis triggered by the coronavirus, but all losses cannot be compensated. The past 2020 was the worst year for Korea since the 1997-1998 economic crisis, and according to some indicators, the worst in the entire post-war history.
As a result, largely under pressure from a society tired of restrictions, the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan is trying to gradually weaken restrictions in order to quickly return to the life that is still called “ordinary”, but which seems to have remained in some distant, distant past. True, these efforts by the authorities, and with them the Korean people as a whole, resemble groping through a minefield, where every mistake threatens to turn into another explosion in the form of a new wave of coronavirus.
Not a week goes by without experts and authorities discussing new steps to ease restrictions. After several weeks of banning the cafes, which could only be sold to take-away, work resumed as “normal”, but not yet full day. In the metropolitan area, which accounts for 70-80 percent of all new infections, the penultimate level of social distancing is left – the “level of 2.5”, but in the rest of the regions restrictions were recently reduced to “level 2.0”. Therefore, in the capital, cafes, restaurants, gyms and other institutions are open until 9 pm, and in the regions you can sit until 22:00. There is still a restriction on gatherings of more than four people, which has forced many to refuse to travel to relatives during this New Year’s holidays (according to the Eastern calendar).
Small businesses are demanding further relaxation of restrictions, pointing out that bankruptcies follow one another. It is possible that tomorrow the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which is slowly but succumbing to persuasion, will announce new indulgences.
However, not all so simple. Experts are well aware that all this resembles a game with fire near a barrel of gasoline. In South Korea, more than 80 people have already been diagnosed with a new strain of coronavirus from the UK and South Africa, which is much more contagious. Everything goes, in fact, until the first major outbreak. Small foci quickly suppress, without resorting to stricter restrictions, but if the statistics of the infected jump up again, then the authorities will have no choice. But in general, slowly, with apprehension, but South Korea is gradually moving towards a return to “normal” life.
“Why didn’t we buy the Russian Sputnik V?”
Of course, as in many other countries of the world, in South Korea high hopes are pinned on vaccinations, which are about to begin. It will be free for everyone, including foreigners, and at the same time mandatory.
But here the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan has listened to and is still listening to a lot of criticism – both deserved and hasty. Attempts by Kazakhstani companies to create their own vaccine have not yet been crowned with success; everything is in the first or second stage of testing. And they are criticized for the fact that the authorities have not yet launched vaccination, while in dozens of other countries it is in full swing.
The South Korean government has secured contracts for the purchase of drugs, which should be enough with a margin for the entire population of the country, but in reality, full-scale vaccination of the majority of the population will start only in July-September of this year.
Against the background of the revealed side effects of a number of Western vaccines and delays in the supply of large batches of drugs in Korea, more and more attention has recently begun to be paid to the Russian drug Sputnik V.
We will not hide the fact that the first reports about the creation of a vaccine in the Russian Federation in Korea were received with distrust and were ignored by the authorities. Just a week ago, an official representative of the authorities of the Republic of Kazakhstan clearly stated, answering a relevant question from journalists: “We are not considering the possibility of purchasing Russian vaccine.” But everything changed in just a matter of days, prompted by the publication in the authoritative medical journal The Lancet, where it was announced that Sputnik V was nearly 92 percent effective.
One got the impression that in recent days the experts, media, TV channels in Korea suddenly “discovered” the Russian vaccine and were impressed by it. As often happens, the journalists immediately bombarded the officials with questions, asking: “Why don’t we buy the Russian Sputnik V? You have little evidence or have you created your own vaccine ?!”
As a result, the same officials who quite recently categorically denied the possibility of purchasing a Russian drug changed their position. Now the official position of Korea is “we are studying the information and do not exclude the possibility of purchasing a vaccine made in the Russian Federation.” It is significant that many ordinary Koreans often ask the question: “I can’t hear there, will Russia supply us with Sputnik V?”
So it is possible that a Russian drug will help Koreans in returning to normal life, although, of course, it does not matter who and where made the vaccine, because everyone wants to live “as before” and it makes no difference whose medicine will play a decisive role. As often happens, we only realized how well and free we used to live when we lost many of those opportunities that we took for granted and, frankly, did not really appreciate. Maybe Korea will be the first to return to this “happy past” and then everyone, including Russia, will need the Korean experience of this return.
Source: Российская Газета by rg.ru.
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