President Moon Jae-in’s Special Address
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea delivered a special address this Sunday that marked his third year in office. The rare speech at Cheong Wa Dae’s press room appropriately addressed the effects of COVID-19, including South Korea’s plans to return to everyday life. South Korea’s efficiency in containing the virus was recognized globally, and now many countries are watching for clues in lowering social distancing regulations.
Health professionals and officials determined South Korea’s COVID-19 crisis has stabilized. In light of this stabilization, President Moon declared the transition into a new normal, balanced between regulating the virus and maintaining daily lives. The new normal in South Korea looks much like the country before the virus. Subways are filled with commuters, and restaurants have long lines leading out to the sidewalks. As many as 30 million people participated in parliamentary elections on April 15. The citizens are confident in their government that estimates the medical system can comfortably control COVID-19 as long as new cases do not exceed 50 per day. Furthermore, epidemiologists can trace the source of infection at least 95% of the time.
However, the government remains watchful and fears the enemy is complacency. President Moon’s speech followed a report of 34 new COVID-19 cases in South Korea linked to nightclubs. Since Saturday, the mayor of Seoul has shut down all bars and nightclubs.
“A second wave is inevitable,” said Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the government’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters. “But we are running a constant monitoring and screening system throughout our society so that we can prevent it from exploding rapidly into hundreds or thousands of cases like the one we had in the past.”
As President Moon stated, it is not possible to return to the way things were before the virus. Nightclubs and bathhouses take the temperatures of everyone who enters. Students wear masks in class and are not allowed to play contact sports. At Suwon Hi-Tech High School in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, every student’s temperature is checked four times a day.
South Korea’s baseball league started its delayed season on Tuesday and the soccer league got underway on Friday — with spitting prohibited and no fans in the stands. Some stadiums played recorded fan noise, while coaches and players on the sidelines wore masks.
While things are not normal yet, South Korea’s embark on a new normal is good news for all of us. Hopefully, the U.S. and Colorado will also see stabilization and a transition into a more balanced normal.