The COVID-19 outbreak has been causing a serious emergency and grave situation for both public safety and the economy. I have called on the National Assembly for cooperation across party lines. The Government is going all out to respond to the situation by mobilizing resources nationwide. The crisis alert has been raised to its highest level, and the Prime Minister, in his capacity as head of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, is taking command while staying in Daegu to stem the spread of the infectious disease.
Quarantine authorities and medical professionals are struggling day and night. Medical personnel in the private sector are also actively participating and providing dedicated service.
The people are of one mind about voluntarily becoming the principal agents in the quarantine efforts and pooling their strengths. A voluntary campaign to reduce commercial rents is spreading across the country. In particular, the outpouring of encouraging messages and voluntary supports is continuing for residents in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, which have been suffering severely.
Politicians have also put their hearts and minds together. A special committee for COVID-19 countermeasures was established at the National Assembly. The Assembly also swiftly passed three bills to revise acts related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act and the Quarantine Act. All of the members have expressed their intention to cooperate regarding drawing up a supplementary budget. I am very grateful to them.
As the first phase of the National Assembly’s cooperation for the nationwide response has proceeded well, I ask you to further enhance and speed up collaboration. In order to assist damage recovery and strengthen the nation’s quarantine capabilities, I look forward to seeing you provide support through budgetary and institutional means.
During the MERS outbreak in 2015, a special committee was formed in the National Assembly that strengthened our capabilities to cope with infectious diseases, including the establishment of treatment facilities designated to handle suspected cases exclusively and the expansion of negative-pressure wards. At present, it’s crucial to join forces across party lines to end the COVID-19 outbreak as early as possible, but at the same time, we should use this outbreak as an opportunity to raise national quarantine capabilities to a new level. I hope you will put your heads together while considering not only urgent countermeasures but the mid- and long-term plans as well.
We are gravely concerned about our economy. It has been dealt a huge blow. The longer this goes on, the more worrisome it will become. The Government has laid out extraordinary measures to revive our shrunken economy and provide emergency aid to affected businesses and small and micro-size business owners through a drastic fiscal injection. We will devise unprecedented measures for the damaged regions and industries and will significantly expand tax benefits and financial assistance for those SMEs and microbusiness owners who are going through hard times. In particular, the Government plans to provide support to help cover half of the reduced commercial rents in order to spread the relevant voluntary campaign.
We also need an unconventional plan to promote consumption to revive domestic demand. In particular, we will provide full support to address Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do’s socioeconomic damage. The Government will swiftly disburse emergency funding, including special grants and reserve funds, and work out strong support measures that go beyond the declaration of a special disaster zone. I ask the National Assembly to identify any measures needing further reinforcement.
The Government will draw up an emergency supplementary budget bill and submit it to the National Assembly as soon as possible in a bid to provide full budgetary support for the types of assistance required. I believe that speed is key. During the MERS outbreak in 2015 when I was an opposition leader, I was the first to propose a supplementary budget bill and helped pass it quickly. Since it is an emergency, I ask you to discuss the issue promptly and process it during this extraordinary session.
It is a grave crisis, but we can prevail. If the Government and the National Assembly join forces, we will be able to quickly resolve the current situation and expedite economic recovery. Let us work together so that today’s meeting can bring hope to the people. Thank you.