The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Korea has been steadily decreasing since the peak of 916 on February 28, posting 248 on March 8 yesterday. This trend should be maintained. Many countries around the world, however, are seeing their confirmed case counts continue to rise. Under these circumstances, if we can further reduce our number of new confirmed cases and bring the outbreak under control by sustaining this current trend, Korea will come to be seen as having the best practice in COVID-19 quarantine procedures.
We’ve come this far while our people have come together and cooperated closely with quarantine authorities playing a central role. There have been incessant attempts in some quarters to stoke and escalate anxiety and fear, but our people have never been swayed. Instead, they have observed safety guidelines with the mindset that they are the principal agents of the quarantine efforts, and they have provided an outpouring of support to those quarantine authorities and medical professionals who are giving it their all. The achievements thus far have been made possible all due to the power of our people who have put complete trust in and provided support for quarantine authorities and medical staff. I extend my profound respect and gratitude to our proud people.
But we should not be optimistic yet. Sporadic small clusters of infections continue to be reported in many areas in addition to Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. We should never let our guard down even the slightest bit because ongoing small clusters of infections means that larger mass infections could occur. In addition, we cannot help but stay alert of the signs that the virus is spreading globally, as evident from the hike in the number of confirmed cases in many countries.
Given the characteristics of the outbreak to date, mass infections mostly occur when a large number of people have gathered closely together at religious services or communal living facilities like convalescent hospitals. With regard to such living facilities, the Government will respond preemptively by first conducting complete screenings at high-risk facilities in cooperation with local governments.
I earnestly appeal to the people to show a bit more restraint with regard to attending closely packed events such as religious services. Thankfully, many religious organizations are closely cooperating, but some are still continuing to hold services. As each local area has a different situation with regard to infection, I ask the people to actively follow their local government’s policies and directives.
The new system that allows the public to purchase face masks on days that correspond to the last digit of their birth years can be inconvenient in many ways. Purchasing only two face masks per week may be insufficient for many people. It was an inevitable measure that has to be taken as supply cannot keep up with demand due to the rapid spread of this infectious disease. The system allows everyone an equal opportunity to buy face masks, but the supply is still inadequate. In addition to that, there is the difficulty of having to run the system while distributing masks to quarantine sites, medical professionals, the vulnerable in society, and Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do first. I ask for broad understanding and cooperation with a mind to make some small concessions and show consideration.
The Government will do everything it can to resolve inconveniences in regard to the new system by quickly increasing the supply of face masks. I also ask the people to frequently check and follow the mask usage guidelines recommended by quarantine authorities until there is a sufficient supply.
Most of all, I ask those in the civil service, including at Cheong Wa Dae, to lead by example and wear cotton face masks unless they are in a situation where they are recommended to wear hygiene masks. Thank you.