Thursday, January 27

Once a Covid Success Story, South Korea Sweats During the Delta Surge Summer | South Korea

Park Eun-sun faces the most challenging set of circumstances since starting her business in August 2020.

Having started Nostalgic, his restaurant in southern Seoul, during the coronavirus pandemic, Park has had to work harder to attract customers who were reluctant to eat out during a public health crisis, while fulfilling an evolving set of distancing mandates. social that dictate how many diners you can. host and when it can open its doors.

Now Park is suffering the harshest restrictions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to an ongoing outbreak in cases in the South Korean capital, restaurants are required to close at 10 p.m. and can only have parties of one or two customers for dinner service.

“Although Korea has fortunately not entered a total lockdown, our fate so far has been influenced by government policy,” Park said.

She is waiting for more of the South Korean population to be vaccinated, a process that she and many others have found frustratingly slow. “Since the restaurants are still open, it would be nice if the restaurant owners and employees were higher on the priority list for the vaccine. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, ”he said.

In the early stages of the pandemic, South Korea for a time had the world’s largest outbreak outside of China. The country drew international admiration for quickly curbing the first wave of infections through an aggressive testing and contact tracing campaign, all without even enacting strict lockdown measures like mandatory business closings.

That glow has faded, as more than a year later, South Korea is suffering its worst wave of coronavirus infections yet, having recorded 1,896 new cases on Wednesday, the highest daily figure in the country.

The national government, led by President Moon Jae-in, is the target of public discontent, with critics accusing Moon and the ruling party of congratulating themselves on such successful early virus containment measures without securing sufficient vaccine supplies to allow the back to normal. life.

Currently, South Korea ranks second to last among OECD member countries, with only 13.49% of its population fully vaccinated, and critics have argued that the government was slow to implement the national vaccination campaign, leaving it to the public and small businesses will get by. with blocking measures that have harmed the economy and quality of life.

The government has signed agreements with foreign suppliers to purchase AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but supply shortages and shipping delays have caused launch setbacks.

“The current situation of strict social distancing could have been avoided if the government had taken a longer-term approach,” he said. Shin Eui-music, a professor at the KAIST Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Engineering.

“A year ago, the number of daily cases was only about 100 and they were satisfied with that, thinking that we could control the pandemic. They should have looked to the future and devised a more active strategy to try to end the pandemic by purchasing enough vaccines much earlier, ”Shin said.

In addition to the discomfort, the current peak of the virus coincides with an extreme heat wave, with temperatures in South Korean cities that have been between 30 and 30 degrees amid high humidity for the past week.

Late July is also the usual peak of the South Korean holiday season, and travel restrictions related to the pandemic have meant more people are staying home or taking domestic trips rather than going abroad. To limit the spread of the coronavirus, in popular coastal tourist destinations, local officials have banned access to beaches for set periods each day and banned eating and drinking on the beach.

Social distancing measures and work-from-home directives from many companies have left the streets of Seoul, a typically bustling city, empty.

Han River Park in Seoul, South Korea, where Covid cases are at record levels
Han River Park in Seoul, South Korea, where Covid cases are at record levels Photograph: Chris Jung / NurPhoto / REX / Shutterstock

At Nostimo, Park prepares authentic Greek dishes, with many ingredients sourced from an out-of-town farm.

She says that with South Koreans unable to travel abroad due to the pandemic, Nostimo has enjoyed strong demand from travelers on land. “Our restaurant has benefited from visits from Koreans and non-Koreans alike who want to have authentic international food experiences without having to get on a plane,” he said.

Throughout the pandemic, one group that has fought back has been medical workers who have led the response to the crisis, often working long hours at risk of exposure to infections. Doctors have fought with the government over pay and working conditions, and have accused the government of taking credit for their work.

“Doctors and nurses who have been treating Covid-19 patients have been under a lot of stress, on the verge of exhaustion,” said Park Jae-young, physician and executive editor of Korean Doctors’ Weekly.

Park said that instead of waiting for a “post-pandemic era,” medical professionals are preparing for a future in which the coronavirus remains a part of their work and life. “Considering the characteristics of the coronavirus, its transmission power, mutation patterns and the vaccination rate, it seems that we will live with its effects practically forever,” he said.

“It will be impossible for a long, long time for tens of thousands of people to remove their masks and gather on a football field to cheer or shake hands with strangers and have heated discussions in pubs.”

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