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PM urges govt. steps against economic impact from possible lifting of distancing rules

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters held at Seoul City Hall on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters held at Seoul City Hall on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called Wednesday for thorough measures to minimize the negative impact on the economy and the people's livelihoods in case of tougher anti-coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

"(We) can't rule out (the possibility of) a decision to raise (the rule) to Level 3," while the government is making all-out efforts to curb the COVID-19 spread without using the "last means," he stressed during a daily interagency meeting on the pandemic.

Currently, Seoul, as well as the nearby Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, is under Level 2.5, the second highest of the five-tier alert system. Most other areas in South Korea are under Level 2.

Rather than taking the Level 3 step "recklessly," Chung said, the government needs to gear up for measures to support people and businesses that are affected by it in consideration of the expected impact on the economy and people's livelihoods.

He instructed related authorities, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, to review support measures in advance, tailored to the current situation, based on the experience of providing emergency relief funds. The government is preparing to offer the third batch of relief money linked with coronavirus-led damages.

"Prepared support would pave the way for a quick (economic) recovery," Chung pointed out.

The prime minister also emphasized the urgency of securing sickbeds for coronavirus patients.

"For now, securing sickbeds is the foremost task of virus prevention and control," he said and called for the mobilization of "every administrative power" to prevent infected people from waiting for hospital beds for a day or longer.

Health authorities reported 1,078 additional coronavirus cases at the start of the day, the country's highest daily number since the outbreak began. (Yonhap)
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