I am glad to meet you all. To identify one confirmed case quickly is to save that patient’s life, and it is the beginning of all quarantine measures. Korea’s quarantine efforts have been generating results thanks to swift screening, speedy confirmation, quick quarantine and prompt treatment in addition to the highest test accuracy in the world. Your innovative hard work and the dedication of medical professionals are helping us overcome the COVID-19 outbreak. I am truly grateful to all of you.
Today, I am visiting Seegene, a COVID-19 diagnostic kit developer, to show our people how greatly our diagnostic reagent producers have performed, making us very proud. I am also here to bring hope to the international community. Also joining us are representatives from KogeneBiotech, Solgent, SD Biosensor and BioSewoom, whose diagnostic kits have been approved for emergency use.
I was told that even the staff at research institutes are participating in the manufacture of diagnostic kits as demand for them is soaring in and outside the country. I deeply express my respect and encouragement to all of those who are working hard day and night even during weekends and holidays.
You are working on the frontlines of the efforts to surmount the virus. Our COVID-19 control and prevention measures, which the world has deemed remarkable, start from you.
With a sharp decrease in new confirmed cases and a faster increase in the number of those recovering fully, our quarantine measures have been showing palpable results. All of this has been possible thanks to the rapid development of diagnostic kits, which enabled us to get off to a good start in response to this infectious disease.
Moreover, many of these kits have already been shipped overseas. According to Seegene, about 95 percent of its diagnostic kits are being exported. As such, they are contributing to the quarantine efforts of countries around the world and also giving a boost to our economy at the same time.
Despite persistent difficulties, the people harbor great pride and hope thanks to all of you making achievements on both the quarantine and economic fronts.
One’s true abilities are revealed in times of crisis. From mid-January this year when not a single confirmed case was reported in Korea, you started developing diagnostic reagents ahead of any other companies in the world and utilized artificial intelligence to significantly shorten the development period.
By using real-time gene amplification testing technology, you have shortened a test time from more than one day to less than six hours. Five companies here produce enough diagnostic kits to test 135,000 people a day.
For its part, the Government has also drastically eased regulations to support crisis responses and innovation in the private sector. We’ve promptly implemented an emergency use authorization system that greatly simplified the evaluation procedures, thus making it possible to complete the usual one-and-a-half-year approval process in just one week. I have to praise the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for its swift administrative work in this regard.
As of now, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is also carrying out considerable work so the public can purchase evenly rationed face masks. I’ve been briefed that it will soon be possible to increase the number of masks that an individual can purchase per week to three or four from the current two. As our students’ first day of school draws near, I ask you to bring forward the maximization of mask supply.
In addition to investments in R&D for cures and the establishment of a research institution for novel viruses, which are already reflected in the supplementary budget bill, the Government will continue to play an active role to improve the overall competitiveness of domestic bio-venture industries.
Global cooperation on both quarantines and the economy has now become very urgent. The diagnostic capabilities of Korean companies will play a significant role in global cooperation. The World Health Organization singled out Korea’s responses to the COVID-19 outbreak as exemplary cases, citing our development of innovative testing strategies and the efforts to thoroughly trace, diagnose and isolate those who came in contact with an infected person.
A while ago, the U.S. broadcaster CNN visited Seegene here and reported at length about how it developed its diagnostic kit in just three weeks. As such, major international media outlets have shown great interest in Korea’s fast diagnostic technology, the swift approval of test kits and quarantine responses.
Recently, a number of countries have officially requested the provision of diagnostic reagents at the government level, in addition to the export consultations within the private sector. Yesterday, President Trump also made a request for urgent shipments of quarantine supplies such as diagnostic kits. The Government will vigorously support your companies’ exports.
There are many areas in which businesses and the Government should work together. Let us turn this crisis into an opportunity and create new examples of global cooperation together.
On behalf of the people, I express my gratitude once more to all of you who have made us confident that we can overcome the COVID-19 outbreak.