Korea’s daily count of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, which had spiked to somewhere in the 400s, has stayed below 200 for five consecutive days and continues to fall. The spread of infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, the biggest cause for concern, has also dropped significantly. At this critical juncture with the resurgence of COVID-19, the Government swiftly imposed enhanced social distancing and other strong measures, which have gradually begun to work.
Despite many pessimistic predictions that the number of daily confirmed cases could exceed 1,000, our people have successfully turned the situation around once more. We cannot predict when and where unforeseen events might occur and cannot afford to lower our guard even for a moment. However, our confidence is increasing that we can definitely control the spread of the disease and get past the current critical moment if we stay strong a little longer.
All of this is attributable to those who have been actively participating in practicing enhanced social distancing while enduring economic damage and inconveniences in their daily lives. I am grateful once again to the people who continue to comply with the heightened epidemic prevention and control policy while having long suffered various back-to-back hardships. I would like to say at the same time that I truly feel sorry.
All of our people are suffering difficulties due to COVID-19, but the hardships of the self-employed and vulnerable populations are even greater. The Government had no alternative but to heighten the level of social distancing, but we feel anxious when thinking about the people whose difficulties are bound to increase further. I hope they can endure a little more.
The Government will do all it can to bring the number of new cases under 100 per day into double digits prior to the Chuseok holiday in order to keep COVID-19 at a controllable level. We will do our best to ensure that our people are able to return to normal daily routines and economic activities at the earliest date possible.
The latest COVID-19 resurgence has been concentrated in Seoul and its surrounding areas, dealing a serious blow to the economy. What is worse, domestic demand that had begun to revive has deteriorated again. Given this, it was all the more distressing that our only option was to strengthen epidemic prevention and control measures. In particular, microbusiness owners and the self-employed – likened to our economy’s capillaries – are bearing the brunt of the economic damage. Wholesale and retail trade, dining and lodging, and service industry consumption is teetering on a cliff, and business lines whose operations have been suspended or restricted are at the crossroads of survival and collapse from a direct hit. Relevant countermeasures are urgently and desperately needed now.
The Government has determined that a fourth supplementary budget is indispensable and must be distributed in the form of relief payments tailored to specific damage. Our intention is – to the fullest extent available – to intensively support those lines of business and people suffering the most. We aim to provide the broadest possible safety net to prevent the destruction of lives by giving support to those on the threshold of survival first.
We will focus on supporting and restoring those business lines and people, including microbusiness owners and the self-employed, who have been driven to a dead end by the most serious economic damage from the resurgence of COVID-19. This is what is most urgently and desperately needed at this moment in time. We cannot deny support to the vulnerable and those without job security, who are affected even more severely in difficult times.
There can be many different opinions regarding the amount, recipients and distribution method of the second emergency relief payments. It makes sense that even a small payment should be distributed to all citizens as everyone is cooperating with epidemic prevention and control measures while enduring hardships and exhaustion from COVID-19. In reality, however, we have immense financial constraints. We have no choice but to issue government bonds to cover the fourth supplementary budget. Moreover, we are still undergoing the COVID-19 crisis, and we have to face the fact that there is no end in sight. Emergency relief payments customized to specific damage are an unavoidable necessity to maximize the effect of limited financial resources while weighing various conditions and circumstances.
This fourth supplementary budget is aimed at surmounting the crisis. As such,
after considerable discussion and deliberation, the Government and the ruling party have decided to focus primarily on helping the business lines and people hit hardest by the crisis. I ask for the people’s broad understanding and cooperation.
The Government will hasten necessary procedures by quickly drawing up the supplementary budget so that as many payments as possible can be distributed before Chuseok. We will actively devise additional essential support, including measures to lessen the childcare burdens that parents face from prolonged contact-free education. I believe that politicians will also work together. The opposition parties have spoken of the need for more supplementary budgets and agreed on customized assistance for those business lines and people suffering serious harm. We will explain the Government’s supplementary budget plan to the opposition parties in advance. I ask the National Assembly to swiftly deliberate the matter and pass it.