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PM points to severity of pandemic, vows all-out response for swift containment

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun presides over a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters about measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at the government complex in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun presides over a meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters about measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at the government complex in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday that authorities saw the current state of the pandemic in the nation as being severe and pledged to swiftly deal with the crisis with the government's full capabilities.

"Experts are warning that the worst may arrive if the latest growth trend cannot be quickly contained," Chung said during an interagency meeting on the COVID-19 response held at the government complex in Seoul.

Chung added, "The government confronts the current situation as being severe and will response swiftly by mobilizing all resources at our disposal."

On Friday, South Korea reported 561 more COVID-19 cases, including 533 local infections, raising the total caseload to 86,128.

A series of infections at factories and hospitals in the wider Seoul area have caused concerns of a potential virus resurgence, especially after social distancing rules were eased for small shops on Monday following the Lunar New Year holiday last week.

Chung pointed out that the virus transmission trend following the Lunar New Year holiday was concerning, and that the outbreaks at hospitals and factories were "escalating the sense of crisis."

He also seemingly censured officials at the labor and justice ministries for failing to prevent a mass outbreak at a factory in Namyangju, 20 kilometers east of Seoul, where over 100 foreign workers from 17 nations were living and working.

"Instructions were made about two weeks ago to conduct preemptive virus tests at work places and areas concentrated with foreign workers. But I question whether the order was carried out properly in the field," Chung said.

Chung also tried to dispel concerns over the safety issues surrounding AstraZeneca vaccines, amid the government's decision to temporarily exclude administration to seniors until it receives additional data from AstraZeneca to ensure their safety.

"I say it once again, but there are no problems concerning the safety (of AstraZeneca vaccines)," Chung said in a separate meeting between health authorities to check on the government's public COVID-19 vaccination program that begins later this month.

He pointed out that the product was approved by some 50 countries and by the World Health Organization for emergency use. "There have been no reports of serious side effects from countries that have begun administrations," Chung said.

Chung explained that additional clinical tests for the product were being conducted and that authorities plan to transparently announce the results to the public as soon as related data is made available. (Yonhap)
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