South Korea Faces Third Wave Of Coronavirus
South Korea, one of the most successful countries and fighting the pandemic is doing worse now, case numbers are growing during a third wave of infections. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on the debate over how to respond. For the past week, South Korea has tried to discourage year and revelry by banning gatherings of more than four people and shutting down ski resorts and tourist spots. But new case numbers and deaths remain stubbornly and or near record highs. Those new infection highs of around 1000 today in a country of more than 50 million are, Of course, nowhere near is bad is the US, nor are they as good as save New Zealand or Taiwan. Dr Kim Woo ju and infectious disease expert at Korea University's Good. A hospital in Seoul recalls that when the first wave of infections hit in February, fear of a new and unfamiliar virus gripped South Koreans, Ah Kitana. Sarah's got so scared. They started wearing masks and stopped going outside even before the government mandated it. But as the pandemic were on, people loosened up and mobility went up. Meanwhile, the government listen to a crescendo of voices of exhausted citizens and struggling businesses. The government hesitated to raise the social distancing level when it should have and was too fast to downgrade it when it shouldn't have. Kim argues that the government has got it backwards. It's not the counter measures that are hurting the economy. It's the pandemic. Experts also point out that the third wave is going to be tougher to crush than the first two. This time. There are more undetected community transmissions, more smaller clusters of infections. China and me, a respiratory disease specialist at equal Women's University in Seoul, says South Korea relied on testing and contact tracing to beat the first two waves. But this time that won't be enough, she says, would you guys how does have a right to take that and that you can only cut the chain of transmission if we cut social activity? The government won praise early on by putting health authorities and experts firmly in charge of the pandemic response. But John says this has changed socially with their table got him over there we go in there. Aside From a few exceptions, most medical experts have been calling on the government to raise social distancing restrictions and warning that hospitals are under a lot of strain E few that our opinions are not reflected very well in the government's decisions. South Korea's government denies that there's any daylight between politicians and experts. Or that it's gone soft on the virus. Speaking on December, 22nd Health Ministry spokesperson Sonia Hong Lei acknowledged that some people are calling for raising restrictions to the maximum. Could you two get engaged with only days ago? Who does those calls are understandable, he said. But regarding occasional claims that the government has violated his own criteria for raising restrictions, he added, We've never done that. Just before Christmas. U. S troops stationed here got the country's first coronavirus vaccinations. Most South Koreans won't start getting theirs until February. The government insists there's no delay. But at Korea University Hospital Doctor Kim Woo ju says the government seems to have dropped the ball. E don't understand why the South Korean government didn't start actively negotiating advanced purchase agreements until November. The government announced Thursday that it's secured more than enough vaccines for his population. And, according to a recent poll, nearly 90% say they'll take the shot.