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Presidential office, ruling party to speed up economic aid for COVID-19

Government to limit mask exports, tighten quarantine on Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province

Officials from the presidential office, government and ruling Democratic Party hold a meeting in Seoul on Tuesday. Yonhap
Officials from the presidential office, government and ruling Democratic Party hold a meeting in Seoul on Tuesday. Yonhap

An economic aid package and extra budget will be drawn up as quickly as possible to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, the presidential office, government and ruling Democratic Party of Korea agreed Tuesday.

The move comes a day after President Moon Jae-in raised the possibility of the additional funds to manage the economic fallout of the outbreak. Speaking at Monday’s meeting with top aides and infectious disease experts, Moon called on the government to consider all possible policy measures, including the extra budget.

The agreement was reached at a three-way meeting Tuesday, where the three sides also agreed to tighten quarantine measures on Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province as much as possible to contain the outbreak. Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province have become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Korea, with more than 80 percent of cases having been confirmed in the area.

At the meeting, the presidential office, government and ruling party agreed that response measures will be announced within the week.

The presidential office, ruling party and government also agreed to review the possibility of the president issuing an emergency financial order if conditions in the National Assembly do not allow the measures to be rolled out quickly. Article 76 of the Constitution states that the president can issue an order, with the effect of an act, for financial actions without waiting for the National Assembly to convene.

“Extra budget will be processed quickly if the plenary session, and meeting of the parliamentary committees, can be held, and if not, an emergency financial order will be considered after discussing it with the opposition,” ruling party spokesman Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo said.

In drawing up financial support measures, the government will place an emphasis on Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, small and middle-sized enterprises and export-focused companies, the ruling party say.

Other measures include tax incentives for landlords who lower rents for SMEs and small merchants.

Aside from financial measures, the three sides agreed to limit the exports of protective masks.

Under the measures, enforced from Wednesday, mask producers’ exports will be limited to under 10 percent of daily output. In addition, 50 percent of daily production must be supplied to retailers ran by state-operated organizations, and others approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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