[Photo by Yonhap]
South Korea will dole out Covid-19 jabs for free incrementally starting next month and work towards balancing out inequalities deepened from the Covid-19 fallout, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday.
“Hope for the people and inclusive recovery” was the theme of the 2021 presidential new year address aired online Monday as the president vowed to draw up vaccination program this month.
With thorough epidemic prevention and control, vaccines, and treatments, Moon added that Korea will be able to “prevail over Covid-19 and restore daily lives.”
The government initially had planned to provide free vaccination to a selective group, but opted for universal free program as it came under fire for delay in vaccine procurement and rollout.
The government has secured access to vaccines developed by four pharmaceutical companies – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson-Janssen. Korea is also engaged in the development of its own vaccines.
Korea reported 451 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, down 213 from the previous day. It is the first time for the number of infections to fall below 500 since Dec. 1. The gradual decline in the number of infection cases – down from over 1,000 cases in the past several weeks – is carefully seen as a result of tightened social distancing rules, although risk elements still remain.
On the economy front, Moon expected Korea to have achieved highest economic growth among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in 2020 and its economy to recover to pre-Covid-19 level in the first half of this year.
He expected Korea’s position in global gross domestic product (GDP) to rank among the top 10 and its per capita income to exceed G7 member countries for the first time.
Korea’s economy has shifted to plus growth from the third quarter of last year, Moon said. Exports in December have also topped $50 billion for the first time in two years.
Korea has also started to distribute its third round of emergency funds to small business owners and vulnerable employment group.
Moon for the first time apologized for the housing problems and vowed to beef up supplies to stabilize the housing market.
On the diplomacy front, Moon said Korea will enhance Korea-U.S. alliance under new Joe Biden administration and also put out efforts to achieve “big transition” in the stalled dialogue between the United States and North Korea as well as between the two Koreas.
By Lee Eun-joo
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]