PM Chung warns of irrecoverable crisis while people go outside

Dec 09, 2020, 09:14 am

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Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks at a meeting held at the Seoul City Hall on Dec. 8, 2020./ Photographed by Song Eui-joo

AsiaToday reporter Lee Jang-won 

Amid the fast spread of COVID-19 nationwide, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun came forward to take the lead in handling the situation. The prime minister convened the first meeting Tuesday to check on the COVID-19 situation in the greater Seoul area to discuss countermeasures. The government has set up a special situation room for effective response to the crisis. 

During the meeting at the Seoul City Hall, Chung said, “As the head of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, I will keep checking on the situation in the capital area until it sees improvement.”
“A collapse of the medical system in the capital area, home to half of the country’s population, could bring an irrecoverable crisis,” the prime minister said. “If we fail to reverse the situation, things can be much worse than the initial wave that hit Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.”

“With the Level 2.5 distancing rules imposed in the greater Seoul area, special management and response to the situation in the area is needed for a while,” he said. “In order to effectively overcome the crisis, it is necessary to operate a special situation room that comprises of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, the National Medical Center and other relevant agencies.”

The government decided to set up a special situation room for COVID-19 response in the capital area to promptly implement quarantine measures appropriate to the situation in the region.

“This is the last chance that we have to stop the worst winter from coming,” the prime minister said during a Cabinet meeting, asking for cooperation from the public over the new measures aimed at bend the curve. 

“We need patience and wisdom to pause our activities before the whole economy and society become paralyzed,” he said and asked the people to stay home if possible. 

“No one is safe in the capital area, which has entered the epidemic phase,” he added. 

A coffee shop in a major shopping mall in Seoul puts up a sign on banning customers from eating inside on Nov. 26, 2020./ Source: Yonhap

AsiaToday probationary reporter Kim Ye-seul 

Lee, a 33-year-old office worker, headed to a major bookstore in the central Seoul ward of Jongno during lunch time. She wanted to stop by to read at the store for a while, but had no choice but to turn back. It was because the bookstore was packed with people seeking for a place to have a cup of coffee, since drinking was not allowed in cafes under the Level 2.5 social distancing rules. 

An employee of a cartoon café near Sinchon in northern Seoul was exceptionally busy Tuesday. Instead of going to café, people chose to go into the cartoon café as an alternative. Since the café he is working at, is categorized as a ‘general restaurant,’ customers are allowed to eat inside. “Not only people who want to read comic books, but those who want to study are coming here,” he said.

The government raised the Level 2.5 social distancing rules in the metropolitan area starting Tuesday, however people are flocking to bookstores, comic cafes, and department stores, which are not subject to stricter distancing rules.

At the bookstore, many were seen drinking coffee sitting on a sofa prepared for reading. “It’s cold outside and there is no place other than here to have a cup of coffee,” a 38-year-old office worker said.

A food court in a department store in the central Seoul was also crowded, with people having lunch while sitting close to one another. 

Experts point out that the government should raise the social distancing rules further since its vague standard is leaving people more confused. 

#Prime Minister #Chung Sye-kyun #COVID-19 #special response room 
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