Let me begin the 48th Cabinet Meeting.
The people are all coming together to surmount this critical moment in the resurgence of COVID-19. The number of new daily confirmed cases in the country has steadily decreased – down to double digits for three consecutive days. We can now hope that if we stay strong a little longer, we will gradually enter a stabilization phase after getting past this crisis of COVID-19’s resurgence.
Even just getting to where we are now has entailed a lot of pain. We have given undivided attention to epidemic prevention and control to prevent painstakingly built levees from collapsing. Much stricter measures have been enforced, and the people have resolutely endured and complied with them while taking on many sacrifices and inconveniences. Despite the arduous conditions of their long battle against COVID-19, disease-control authorities and medical professionals have dedicated themselves on the frontlines of epidemic prevention and control. The economic hardships that vulnerable populations, microbusiness owners and the self-employed have had to suffer are beyond description. I extend my deepest sympathy and gratitude to everyone for their hard work.
However, we still have a long way to go and must not let our guard down under any circumstance. In particular, we will take strong measures against all kinds of acts impeding epidemic prevention and control efforts, which could instantly negate the endeavors of those who have come together to fight the virus.
Illegal rallies, like the one that prompted a COVID-19 resurgence crisis, are being planned once again, and fake news that undermines epidemic prevention and control is running rampant as well. Anti-social crimes that imperil the wellbeing of our community and damage the fabric of our neighbors’ everyday lives must not be upheld under the pretext of “freedom of assembly” and “freedom of expression.”
Those who put our society at risk yet again should not anticipate any tolerance. The Government will fulfill its duty to protect the people. If some people are still planning to push ahead with unlawful rallies, I plead with them to refrain from doing so.
I hope the people will also join forces. In every situation, epidemic prevention and control guidelines offer each of us a lifeline and safety net. We have narrowly managed to pass the critical juncture in the spread of COVID-19, but it will be a prolonged battle until effective vaccines and treatments become available. For the time being, we have no choice but to live with COVID-19. Our day-to-day living has never been so tough. Still, I hope people can show a spirit of solidarity and cooperation as they encourage one another and persevere so that we can succeed in epidemic prevention and control efforts and stimulate the economy as well.
The Chuseok holiday – which has been designated a special epidemic prevention and control period – is just around the corner. I hope people comply with the relevant guidelines and have a safe holiday.
I look forward to the fourth supplementary budget proposal being passed by the National Assembly today. I hope we can help ease the difficulties of those suffering from COVID-19 as soon as possible. The Government has made thorough preparations for a swift disbursement of the supplementary budget. If the supplementary budget proposal is passed by the National Assembly today, we will execute it immediately to complete most of the distribution before Chuseok. It will inevitably take time for new applicants to make submissions and receive support after evaluation, but the Government will do all it can to provide aid in the most convenient and swift manner possible.
This supplementary budget is not the final step. The Government will unceasingly continue our efforts to carefully attend to and look after those in need. The protracted COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to shoulder arduous and difficult tasks alone. A case in point is essential workers. The world is rapidly changing with the emergence of a contact-free society as exemplified by online shopping, remote education and the growing tendency to work from home. However, in environments vulnerable to COVID-19, some people still have no choice but to stay at work and risk infection.
Essential workers are those in various fields who must work in close contact with others: health and medical professionals in charge of epidemic prevention and control and treatments; caretakers who look after seniors and children; couriers; street cleaners; and those in manufacturing, logistics, transportation, construction and telecommunications. They are safeguarding the people’s lives and safety and engaging in indispensable work to maintain our society. Even the contact-free world rests upon their essential work.
I ask every ministry and agency to pay special attention to and look after those essential workers who are more at risk of COVID-19 infection than anybody else and who work for low wages in insecure jobs under poor conditions. I hope that the people will also give due respect and show solidarity with and consideration for those who are struggling in the most vulnerable environments for the sake of the community.