President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday called for economic measures to be drawn up and implemented swiftly to minimize the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, saying the government must prepare for the worst.
“Preparing against the worst-case scenario in which the situation becomes protracted, measures to minimize the impact on and damage to our economy must be drawn up quickly,” Moon said at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
The weekly Cabinet meeting focused on the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, with heads of local governments including those of Seoul City, Gyeonggi Province and the two Chungcheong provinces in attendance.
Saying that communication with affected regions and industries was critical when drawing up support measures, Moon called on the government to resolve difficulties experienced by South Korean companies operating in China, and to support SMEs whose exports have been hit by the outbreak.
“(The government) should focus on helping to diversify parts and materials sources, and export routes, and to expand the path for Korean companies to return to Korea,” Moon said.
The president said the government should consider various measures, including financial support for small merchants, and stressed the role of the government in times of economic hardship.
At the meeting, Moon once again stressed that the government was delivering an “extraordinary response” to the situation and that ensuring the safety of the people was “the reason for the existence of a country, and the government’s fundamental duty.”
While Moon said the authorities were considering all possibilities in their efforts to contain the virus, the routes through which the virus is entering the country may have diversified since immigration measures were rolled out. As of midnight Monday, Korea stepped up quarantine procedures for all those arriving from China, and restricted entry to those holding Chinese passports issued in Hubei province. Foreigners with a record of visiting the Chinese province within 14 days prior to arriving in Korea are also barred.
On Tuesday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a 42-year-old woman had been confirmed as having the new strain of coronavirus, pushing Korea’s total up to 16.
The woman, based in Gwangju, is the second confirmed patient in Korea who had no record of visiting China, or of coming into contact with an individual who had visited the country in recent weeks.
She entered Korea on Jan. 19 after traveling to Thailand, and received treatment for fever and other symptoms at a local hospital from Jan. 25. She was placed in isolation Monday and confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus on Tuesday.
The first such case was a 49-year-old man who is thought to have contracted the virus in Japan. The man, a Chinese national living in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, had his case confirmed Friday, 12 days after he returned from Japan on Jan. 12.
Of the other 14 confirmed cases, nine are believed to have contracted the virus in Wuhan and to have passed the virus on to the remaining five individuals.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com