President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday apologized for the shortage of protective masks, and called on all government organizations to operate 24-hour situation rooms in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I feel very sorry for causing inconveniences to the public by failing to supply masks sufficiently and quickly,” Moon said at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
“Resolve the matter in the near future through cooperation among concerned ministries, with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.”
To resolve the issue, Moon called on the government to facilitate an increase in production, ensure fair distribution and be transparent about the supply situation with the public.
“Support companies to increase production as much as possible, and when demand falls in the future, the government should purchase the surplus to allow companies to manufacture (masks) without worries,” Moon said.
With the COVID-19 outbreak causing shortages, the government had pledged to resolve the issue through measures such as export limits and cracking down on hoarding by retailers. The measures, however, have fallen short of meeting the demand, drawing heavy criticism.
At the Cabinet meeting, which doubled as the meeting of the central disaster response team, Moon once again stressed the need for an all-out effort to battle the outbreak.
The central disaster response team is headed by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, who took part in the Cabinet meeting via a videoconference call from Daegu.
Saying the country is “engaged in a war against infectious disease,” Moon asked the attending officials to have all government organizations on alert around the clock.
Saying the situation had changed drastically since the virus began to spread rapidly among followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Moon said testing large numbers of people and transparently revealing the results were the best actions the government could take at present.
Moon also stressed the need for economic measures, saying an “urgent and bold” injection of state funds is needed.
“The supplementary budget will be submitted to the National Assembly after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting,” Moon said, adding that measures costing 30 trillion won ($25.1 billion) will be rolled out.
He also urged the political parties to set aside their differences and quickly process the supplementary budget bill.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com