South Korea launches voucher scheme to compensate millions of people


South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from left) speaking to the media after an emergency economic meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul on Monday (March 30). South Korea will give gift vouchers to around 14 million households to try to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. - AP

SEOUL: South Korea will give gift vouchers to around 14 million households to try to combat the economic impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, the government said on Monday (March 30).

"Korean households in the bottom 70-per-cent income bracket will receive the government’s emergency relief payments," the Ministry of Economics announced after a third meeting of South Korea's Emergency Economic Council.

The value of the vouchers or online coupons depends on the size of the eligible household. A one-person household can expect to receive 400,000 won (US$326), a family of four 1 million won.

The government said the purpose of issuing vouchers is to ensure that consumption is stimulated.

Most of the planned payments are to be covered by a supplementary budget of 7.1 trillion won. The rest is to come from local governments.

President Moon Jae-in was quoted by his office as saying that this was not an easy decision. The people, however, deserved compensation for the problems caused by social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The supplementary budget is to be submitted to the National Assembly after parliamentary elections scheduled for April 15.

The government had already decided last week to double aid for the pandemic-ridden economy to 100 trillion won. The rescue package is intended to protect businesses, small traders and the self-employed from insolvency.

South Korea on Monday reported 78 new coronavirus cases as the number of people completely recovered from Covid-19 in the country jumped by 195 to 5,228.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) also recorded six new virus-related deaths, bringing the death toll to 158 out of 9,661 total infections.

Of the new cases, 16 were discovered in the capital Seoul and 14 in the city of Daegu, one of the country's infection hotspots with 6,624 of the total cases.

The new data marked a continuing trend of numbers jumping and falling in recent days, with 105 new cases reported on Sunday after 146 new cases on Saturday, and 91 on Friday.

Officials have voiced concerns for days over the growing number of "imported" cases. Many South Koreans are fleeing other countries out of fear and returning home, some bringing the virus with them.

Despite fluctuating numbers, South Korea has seen a clear trend of receding infection rates since its peak of daily cases in February - when more than 900 people were found to have the virus in a single day. - dpa/Asian News Network
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