As the world reels from the impact of the rapidly spreading virus, I too have tempered my optimism over the past week. The early assessment that the virus was coming under control (based on daily declines in the number of new cases) proves to have been pre-mature. There were several days last week where daily new cases jumped back to the 150 plus mark.
Furthermore, the virus seems to be stalking closer. A greater percentage of the new cases are in the Seoul, metropolitan area and less concentrated in the Daegu hot spot. The son of a colleague at SFS, our local international school, returned from a study break in the UK with COVID-19 among his gifts. Saruga, our local supermarket was closed for disinfecting on Sunday when it transpired that a patron who visited on Wednesday had tested positive. I am not sure whether I should be pleased that we took care of the weekly purchases on Saturday morning before it closed or be concerned that we shopped while the virus might have been lurking around.
Public support in the fight against the virus seems to have taken a blow as well. Video clips of young people thronging to night clubs laid bare the image of civic solidarity. Many churches continue to hold mass services tarnishing the reputation of Christianity here. News reports about a young family of three that recklessly visited Italy last week all returning with the virus enraged citizens who are clamoring they be punished. The prime minister gave a speech on Saturday urging all citizens to be vigilant pleading for the postponement of all non-urgent meetings. The next week or two will unveil whether Korea's tremendous efforts are a model for the world to follow or were merely a fluke. We are not out of the woods yet but let's hope that Sunday's low number of new cases (64) is a return to the downward trend and that last week's high numbers were the anomaly.
Peter Underwood, Managing Partner
For up to date information: Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare Infection Rate Tracker