Let me begin the 16th Cabinet Meeting.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 is becoming more serious by the day. Most countries around the world are reporting incidences of confirmed cases, and the scale and speed of the spread is staggering. It is difficult to estimate how far and until when the impact of COVID-19 will last. Compared to other countries, our responses are evaluated positively around the world. The outbreak is gradually being brought under control, but there is a long way to go before entering a phase of clear stabilization.
As I say time and again, I urge the infectious disease prevention and control authorities to pay special attention to reducing deaths and concentrate their capabilities on preventing mass infections at public facilities. Whenever an infection cluster occurs, public suffering grows that much more and our economy crumbles further still with many more jobs lost. I ask you to take this fact seriously.
We also need even tougher measures and more rigorous restrictions put in place with regard to the increasing inflow of COVID-19 from overseas. It is crucial to make sure that all international travelers entering Korea comply with the two-week mandatory self-quarantine that will take effect tomorrow. Any violation of the self-quarantine requirement must be followed by stern and strong legal action in order to protect community safety. A small hole in the dam could lead to its collapse. At a time when every person is making efforts to protect the safety of their community while enduring inconveniences, no individual should be allowed to render all of those peoples’ efforts futile.
For now, it is inevitable to postpone yet again the start of the new school year. Although the delay will cause disruptions in the academic schedule, hinder students’ learning and increase parents’ childcare burden, the decision reflects the will of the majority of people, including experts and parents, as a step to protect our children from the infectious disease and stem its spread within our communities. A number of families will undergo inconveniences, so I ask for their full understanding.
The education authorities are preparing for the opening of schools online while delaying the day students return to school. Although such unprecedented preparations are bound to have some initial snags, I call upon you to do everything you can in cooperation with teachers to ensure that the online classes go as smoothly as possible. Among other things, I ask you to give special consideration to make sure that no student experiences inequality or alienation from online learning. I urge you to make meticulous and impeccable preparations so that the digital divide in the online education environment with regard to computers and mobile devices does not lead to an educational divide among students.
The Government is holding an Emergency Economic Council meeting every week and making swift decisions to lay out extraordinary measures. We took emergency financial measures worth approximately 100 trillion won to alleviate the financial difficulties of small- and microbusiness owners and the self-employed as well as to prevent businesses from collapsing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, we decided to provide emergency relief payments as part of the efforts to share the difficulties of the people and give encouragement to those who have joined forces to overcome this crisis as the principal agents in the infectious disease prevention and control efforts. All ministries and agencies will have to make every possible effort by actually working on the ground as the main agents to overcome the economic crisis. I urge you to enhance inspections and supervision to ensure that the first supplementary budget and the countermeasures that have been determined at the Emergency Economic Council meetings will be implemented promptly and go into effect as intended on the scene.
To minimize the national debt when drawing up the second supplementary budget for the emergency relief payments, an excruciating restructuring of government expenditures is inevitable. No ministry or agency can be exempted. I ask all ministries and agencies to lead by example and actively cooperate so that the government budget can be used primarily to surmount the economic hardship.
The extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit last week has considerably raised the international community’s awareness of the importance of international cooperation and solidarity. In the Leaders’ Statement, the G20 leaders declared not only to jointly respond to the virus but also to enhance cooperation intended to provide bold fiscal support and keep markets open to protect the global economy and international trade. The G20 adopted as its own official stance the Korean Government’s consistent position that an essential flow of international economic exchanges must be maintained in order to minimize COVID-19’s negative impact on the global economy. This also means that global leadership for the recovery of the world economy has begun to function.
Putting the G20 Leaders’ Statement into practice is very important for our economy as well. On the frontlines where all the people around the world are fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, international cooperation and solidarity is a weapon that can determine victory or defeat in a war. I call upon all relevant ministries and agencies to do everything they can so that our Government can take an active, leading role as it has been engaged in the fight from early on.
In particular, our infectious disease prevention and control system and experience, clinical data, diagnostic kits and other related supplies of excellent quality are recognized around the world. The standing of products “made in Korea” has risen even further. I ask you to go beyond what we are doing domestically and contribute to joint international responses while sharing related assets with the global community.