|President Moon Jae-in salutes the national flag prior to a Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday. Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, right, Incheon Mayor Park Nam-choon, second from right, and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, third from right, participated in the meeting to discuss measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the capital and surrounding area. Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
President Moon Jae-in has called for close cooperation between the central government and local administrations in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area to come up with measures to prevent any further spread of COVID-19, as the area has emerged as a new hotbed for the highly contagious virus.
Moon invited Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, Incheon Mayor Park Nam-choon and Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung to a regular Cabinet meeting, Tuesday, for an urgent discussion on the issue.
The three were invited following concerns that if infection control measures are not properly implemented in the densely populated capital area, the virus could easily spread to other parts of the country, with the health authorities saying the second wave of the pandemic has already arrived.
"The stabilization of the coronavirus pandemic depends on how the situation in the capital area will developed. I request close cooperation between the quarantine authorities and municipalities in the capital and surrounding areas," Moon said at the meeting in Cheong Wa Dae.
He said local governments have played a proper role at the frontline of the pandemic, managing self-quarantined residents, imposing gathering bans for facilities with high risks of infection, securing enough beds at public hospitals and providing financial support to small business operators.
"The municipalities' creative and swift responses have shown why decentralization is important. I urge relevant government organizations to actively support municipalities' infection control efforts."
But Moon said the virus situation here was still under control, urging people to maintain hygiene and quarantine rules.
The last time the President held a meeting on coronavirus response with the three municipality heads was March 16 when an infection cluster surfaced at a call center in Guro-gu in the capital.
The pandemic seemed to be dying down nationwide through April but the number of confirmed cases has jumped again since early May. Especially in the capital area, infection clusters are cropping up continuously, mainly at religious groups and multi-level marketing companies.
Over the last two weeks, an average of 46.7 new infections have been confirmed daily, up from the 39.6 daily average for the previous two weeks.
Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said in Monday's briefing that the nation needs to prepare for a drawn-out battle against the virus. "In Seoul and the surrounding area, the first wave of infections came from February through April. The number dropped significantly afterward, but the second wave took place over the holiday in early May and is continuing," she said.
Seoul Mayor Park also said in a separate briefing at City Hall, Monday, that the number of new infections could reach 800 a month later if the current pace continues.
"We may have to again seek social distancing if the situation worsens to the level of disrupting the public medical system, such as the number of daily new infections surpassing 30 in Seoul for more than three days or more than 70 percent of beds being occupied by coronavirus patients," Park said.