I’m glad to meet you all. The COVID-19 outbreak is fanning anxiety over public safety and, at the same time, further straining the economy. In the face of these twin hardships related to infection control and the economy, the Government is working on the situation with extraordinary determination. We have to mobilize all available national capabilities and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by all means.
At today’s meeting, we are joined in particular by academic specialists on infectious diseases. Based on their clinical experiences and expertise, they are providing accurate information and advice to the people and medical professionals on the ground. They are also of great help to the Government when it comes to judging and responding to the situation. I am grateful to them for all of their hard work so far. I ask for a lively discussion over how best to respond to the changes in the situation of the COVID-19 infections. We will actively reflect their views in government measures to control and prevent infections.
Currently, the Government is speeding up screening and diagnostic testing on the entire congregation of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus where a sizeable cluster of COVID-19 infections occurred. All risk factors must be thoroughly managed and controlled in order to stem the spread of infections, not only in the special management zones of Daegu and Cheongdo but also other local communities. The Government is bringing the operation of the infectious disease prevention and control system into full swing by marshaling all available capabilities – local governments, infectious disease prevention and control authorities and private medical institutions. I urge the people once again to place their confidence in our medical system as well as ability to control and prevent infectious diseases and pool their strengths to overcome the present hardships.
The Government must prescribe extraordinary measures to deal with emergency economic situations. This is an unusual emergency situation. We should never vacillate. Instead of limiting our imagination with regard to policy, we have to make bold decisions and implement them quickly.
This distress is not ours to bear alone. International organizations like the International Monetary Fund and financial institutions defined the economic impact from the COVID-19 outbreak as a “most pressing uncertainty,” recommending that governments in each country take immediate action. China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and many others have laid out countermeasures to assist damage recovery and alleviate economic repercussions.
Businesspeople, microbusiness owners and business organizations on the scene are expressing the urgency. The situation has deteriorated further. Listening attentively to those in the business community who say that they are in a complete fog, the Government has to mobilize all policy measures and implement them immediately. We must stand at the forefront to break through this emergency situation and actively meet the needs on the ground.
Responsible for the national economy, the Government should serve as a bulwark to lessen economic repercussions and pump-prime economic recovery. As timing is vital, I urge you to accelerate the implementation of the countermeasures being prepared by the Government to reinforce the economy.
Most of all, special support is imperative for Daegu and Gyeonsangbuk-do Province as they are currently suffering enormous hardships. Bold fiscal injections are needed to minimize damage to businesses, boost consumption and revive local economies that have contracted. In addition to quickly utilizing reserve funds, I ask you to consider drawing up a supplementary budget in cooperation with the National Assembly if necessary.
A crisis can occur to individuals or countries at any time, and what matters are attitudes and capabilities to cope with one. Whenever national difficulties arose, our people have shown more potential than could have been imagined. Our people’s high civic consciousness has become the biggest strength that is helping us weather the difficult situation this time as well. The recent campaign to reduce commercial rents is the best example. Such social solidarity, which started in Jeonju, is spreading throughout the country, including Seoul’s Namdaemun and Dongdaemun traditional markets, Suwon and Sokcho, proving that we can become a source of strength for each other.
A virus can spread anxiety, but it cannot break people’s will. If we believe in our ability to overcome a crisis, and if we pool our strengths to prevail over this infectious disease and revive economic vitality, we will be able to surmount the current difficulties without fail.