South Korea has been applauded by the media as one of the countries that has had great success in containing the corona virus. This is certainly true and I feel thankful that I am able to enjoy the benefits of the government’s efforts and affordable healthcare. However, even though our social distancing protocols have been relaxed, I will continue to stay home as much as I can.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have to go outside for many reasons. I still have to ride the bus to work everyday. Even though schools do not have students at the moment, we are still preparing lessons to upload online. I still go grocery shopping, sometimes with my husband, and occasionally go to Daiso (the Korean dollar store) or Olive Young (beauty store) for additional household items and supplies. These days, I am dealing with a shoulder injury, so I’ve started going to a traditional medicine clinic for treatment. A couple of times, we’ve picked up food to be eaten at home, but we mostly stick to delivery and home cooking. And once a week, I stop at the pharmacy to buy my weekly ration of face masks.
And I always, always, always wear a mask when I am outside of my home. Sitting at my desk at work? I’m wearing a mask. Taking out the trash in my pajamas? I’m wearing a mask. Taking a walk with my husband down a quiet neighborhood street? I’m wearing a mask.
But here are some of the things I’m not doing:
- getting my hair or nails done
- going out to restaurants, bars, clubs, or cafes
- meeting my friends or my husband’s family
- joining social groups or meetups
- shopping for non-essentials (fashion, books, stationery, trinkets, etc.)
- riding the subway or taxis
- enjoying entertainment (plays, musicals, concerts, movies at the theater)
- hanging out at parks, malls, or trendy neighborhoods
Although the government has lifted many restrictions, I still prefer to stay at home when I can. Compared to other countries who are suffering more, Korea’s daily new cases may seem trivial. But the fact of the matter is that we are in fact still seeing new cases every day. I’m of the mind that “it’s not over ’til it’s over.”
As the weather gets warmer, more and more people are feeling comfortable enough to congregate in public places, not wear masks, and go about their daily lives as if everything is normal. Even in a country with a culture of wearing masks like South Korea, I see many people daily either not wearing the mask properly (exposing their nose and sometimes mouth) or not wearing one at all. To me, it’s a bit frightening. The recent outbreak in Seoul has not set my mind at ease, and top health experts predict another resurgence in the fall.
In a perfect world, we would be able to completely trust our government’s judgement. It’s so tempting to go about life in the usual way now that restrictions have officially been relaxed. But we have to keep our discernment and judge for ourselves if it is really safe enough to go back to how things were. I personally don’t think I’ll feel safe until our daily new cases drop to zero for a few consecutive days, and we are simply not there yet.
I sometimes feel a bit guilty to my husband for my strict point of view. We both miss going out on dates and just enjoying the changing of the seasons. But I feel it’s every person’s responsibility to stay home when they can and to wear a mask when they can’t. And it’s my personal responsibility to keep me and my husband safe and healthy, and in turn keep those around me safe and healthy.
I’d love to hear how everyone else is approaching social distancing, especially anyone who is currently living in South Korea. Leave a comment and let’s discuss!