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(LEAD) Moon urges legal punishment for quarantine breach

All News 11:49 March 31, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, details in paras 4-9)

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called Tuesday for stern legal measures against those flouting coronavirus quarantine rules, a day before the policy of imposing 14-day mandatory self-isolation on all arrivals from abroad takes effect.

"If the quarantine measure is violated, resolute and strong legal measures should be taken to protect the safety of the community," he stressed, speaking at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Although South Korea's response to COVID-19 has won praise, with signs of "gradual stabilization" in the situation here, he said, "There's still a long way to go for a solid stable stage."

He added, "We need more powerful measures and thorough control over the growing influx of overseas infections." Moon pointed out that "a small hole breaks down the bank" and warned against any activity to make the people's anti-virus efforts "come to naught."

President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on March 31, 2020, which was linked via video with other Cabinet members working at the government office complex in the administrative town of Sejong, 130 kilometers south of the capital. (Yonhap)

South Korea confirmed 125 additional cases on Monday and four more deaths.

"Pay special attention to reducing the number of deaths and concentrate quarantine authorities' capabilities on preventing group infections at facilities used by multiple people," he told the Cabinet members in his opening remarks open to pool reporters.

The president said it has become unavoidable to extend the school break again.

The government has decided to phase in online classes at public schools nationwide beginning on April 9 in an unprecedented step to protect the right to study despite the unceasing COVID-19 outbreak.

Moon ordered education authorities to make full preparations for the plan, especially to prevent students from suffering disparities in taking online classes at home due to related educational circumstances such as the supply of computers and mobile devices.

Citing the government's decision to allocate another supplementary budget, worth 7.1 trillion won (US$5.8 billion), for financial handouts to middle and low-income families, Moon voiced concern about state debt.

He said "bone-cutting" restructuring of budget spending is inevitable.

He also emphasized the importance of international cooperation and solidarity in the war against the pandemic, calling it a "weapon" that would decide the results of the fight.

He instructed related government offices to do their best so that South Korea can play a leading role based on its experience and know-how related to the virus.


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