The true nature of a person reveals itself at a moment of crisis, and the genuine capabilities of a nation come to light when facing difficulties. The ability to handle a crisis is our national strength, and the civic awareness of the public is our national prestige. Even with regard to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Government is responding by marshaling all available national capabilities, and the people are exercising high civic awareness.
One thing that is clear is the fact that we are fully able to manage and overcome this situation. The Government has raised the level of response based on our world-class quarantine capabilities and accumulated know-how and is putting in place an even more closely-knit quarantine network.
All those who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive have been advised to quarantine themselves at home. For those vulnerable populations that find it difficult to do so, the Government has decided to protect and supervise them by securing additional quarantine facilities. The monitoring of people with symptoms has expanded to include those from all regions in China, and quarantine measures have been strengthened for those from countries besides China. To preemptively stem the spread of infection from incoming international and returning Korean students, the beginning of the spring semester was delayed among other measures. Together with securing more isolation wards and separate treatment facilities designated to handle suspected cases exclusively, the Government is also doing everything it can to secure medical professionals by actively utilizing military and civilian resources.
The Government has banned the stockpiling of face masks to keep supply and demand in balance and is preparing to take emergency steps to adjust the supply. It will crack down on community-destroying, anti-social crimes such as unfair trade practices, market-disrupting behavior and the dissemination of fake news.
A test kit for diagnosing novel coronavirus infection within a matter of hours has been developed and is even being distributed to private medical institutions. Even though the number of confirmed cases could temporarily increase as the number of those being tested grows rapidly, the newly developed kit will greatly contribute to preventing the spread of the virus by enabling swift diagnosis and treatment in the end.
I would like to make a special request to the people. As medical professionals have publicly stated, the novel coronavirus is not a serious disease in our country, at least so far, and the fatality rate is not high. Given this, I think people should be able to still feel at ease. Our country has a globally recognized advanced medical system, and thanks to the outstanding capabilities of our medical workers, the novel coronavirus is being properly managed and treated. Three confirmed patients have already left the hospital after having fully recovered, and all other confirmed cases remain in stable condition, so the number of patients to be discharged will continue to increase.
Until the outbreak comes to a complete end, we should never lower our guard. Still, there’s no need to cut back on our normal activities because of undue anxieties and fears. I ask the people to follow safety guidelines and stay calm while putting their confidence in our medical system.
Once again, I’d like to express my profound appreciation to the people for exhibiting mature civic awareness. People are showing initiative by maintaining personal hygiene, for instance wearing masks in order to protect others’ safety as well as their own. These small steps people take are making decisive contributions to the effective operation of the national quarantine system.
What is also deeply touching is our citizens’ warm-heartedness. Isolation facilities for confirmed patients and Korean residents who flew in from Wuhan have been inundated with letters of encouragement, donated items and volunteers. In addition, moving stories are being told in a heartwarming way, such as public spaces being disinfected by volunteers and anonymous donations of masks to the vulnerable. The people who stand with our neighbors at difficult moments represent our hope. I bow my head deeply in gratitude.
To fulfill its responsibility to protect the safety of the people, the Government will send a charter flight to China once again tomorrow and bring back the remaining Koreans and their family members from Wuhan. As residents in Asan and Jincheon have warmly welcomed Korean citizens returning from the Chinese city, I ask for broad understanding and acceptance from the residents living in the areas where temporary living quarters may be designated. Such cooperation and consideration will become the source of more moving stories, thereby providing strength to make our society happier.
The novel coronavirus is causing tremendous problems for exports, tourism, production and consumption while dealing an unexpected blow to our economy just as it was starting to rebound. Even so, we cannot afford to simply wait for the disease to subside. The Government, businesses and workers are pooling their strengths through mutually beneficial cooperation to prevail over this unforeseen crisis. The Government and businesses are doing all they can and collaborating to help suspended parts factories in China resume normal operation as soon as possible. Workers, for their part, are willingly embracing the special extended work week – swiftly approved by the Government – that surpasses the 52-hour limit.
We will surmount the hardships cast upon the economy without fail. The Government will provide assistance by mobilizing all available resources. It will put in place support measures customized for different industries, businesses and regions and accelerate the provision of financial assistance to small- and microbusiness owners.
To ensure that countermeasures work as intended on the ground, it is absolutely necessary for frontline civil servants to show eager initiative in the course of their administrative duties. I urge all ministries and agencies – under the ministers’ leadership – to encourage public servants to do this. I also ask you to establish the principle that government officials who take proactive steps while carrying out their administrative duties will not be held accountable for liabilities that may arise. Taking it further still, such behavior should even be rewarded. I would like public institutions to do all they can to realize the social value of overcoming infectious diseases. We must keep in mind that we all are part of each other’s social safety net.