Moon warns of stern punishment against acts of hampering antivirus fight

SEOUL– President Moon Jae-in warned Monday again that the government will take stern measures against the violation of social distancing rules.

He made clear that illegal massive rallies cannot be an exception, apparently referring to collective action by the members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella labor union, last weekend.

“(The government) can’t help taking stern legal steps against collective actions, including illegal large-scale rallies, that violate social distancing guidelines,” he said during a weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.

On Saturday, around 8,000 members of the KCTU staged a street rally in central Seoul despite the authorities’ repeated warnings. They called for a revision to the labor act for the strengthening of job security and an improvement in working conditions. The police are investigating the case, while the KCTU is arguing that it is unfair for the government to curb such a rally held with participants thoroughly abiding by social distancing regulations.

The president emphasized that South Korea is standing at another critical juncture in its efforts to bring COVID-19 under control.

He cited a resurgence of infections especially in Seoul and nearby areas amid the spread of the delta variant.

Moon called for the inspection of high-risk facilities and implementation of the so-called one-strike out system under the enhanced Infectious Disease Prevention Act against businesses breaching social distancing rules.

“It is a time of emergency that could lead to a rapid spread should even a small loophole be created in the antivirus posture, timed with an increased flow of travelers during the (summer) holiday season,” he said. “The current situation shows that it is not easy at all to harmonize the virus control and economy … But we have to catch both of the two rabbits without fail.”

Fortunately, he added, vaccinations are proceeding successfully, with 30 percent of the total population having received at least one dose and 10 percent fully inoculated so far. Such mRNA vaccines as those made by Pfizer and Moderna will be available at more than 14,000 private medical institutions across the nation, he said.

“Beginning this month, enough vaccines will be supplied with more stability” amid continued international cooperation for that, according to the president.

He reiterated that the government aims to achieve herd immunity earlier than the initially targeted month of November.

Moon, meanwhile, instructed the government to take measures to minimize damage from heavy rains during the ongoing monsoon season and typhoons that may hit the peninsula.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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