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People's Daily Online

S. Korea prioritizes securing COVID-19 vaccines for economic recovery: acting PM

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 11:17, April 29, 2021

SEOUL, April 28 (Xinhua) -- South Korea prioritized securing COVID-19 vaccines for a continued economic recovery, after announcing the first-quarter data on gross domestic product (GDP) that restored a pre-pandemic level, Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki who serves as the acting prime minister said on Wednesday.

"Needless to say, the more the vaccination, the more contributions will be made to economic recovery as the social-distancing rules are to be moderated," Hong told a press conference with foreign correspondents in Seoul.

"It is significant to secure (COVID-19) vaccines as planned ... The government is putting a top priority on it," said the acting prime minister.

The country has secured the vaccines enough to inoculate 99 million people, nearly double the 52 million population, through the World Health Organization-led COVAX global vaccine facility and the deals with AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, Pfizer and Moderna.

"Under the worst-case scenario, the vaccine supply may face a setback as nobody knows what will happen ... Though the supply may be delayed by some of drugmakers, (South Korea) will be able to form herd immunity by November," said Hong.

According to the government contracts with the pharmaceutical firms, South Korea is scheduled to import 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the July-September quarter and 90 million doses in the October-December quarter each, which Hong said would be "sufficient" enough to vaccinate 70 percent of the population for herd immunity.

The government aims to administer the first jabs to 12 million people by the end of June. Since the mass vaccination was launched on Feb. 26, the country has administered vaccines to 2,586,769 with 148,282 fully vaccinated.

Hong said South Korea had an advantage in terms of vaccine rollout as SK Bioscience, a pharmaceutical unit of the country's third-biggest conglomerate SK Group, is currently producing, or will produce, vaccines under consignment production contracts with AstraZeneca and Novavax.

In the latest tally, South Korea reported 775 more cases of COVID-19 for the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 120,673. The daily caseload rose above 700 in four days.

The minister forecast that if the virus spread is controlled and the vaccine rollout is conducted as planned, the pent-up private consumption could "explode" for the rest of this year, making great contribution to the domestic demand recovery.

Hong expected the South Korean economy to record a growth rate in the medium and upper 3-percent range this year, higher than the finance ministry's previous forecast of 3.2 percent.

The country's seasonally-adjusted real GDP grew 1.6 percent in the January-March quarter from the previous quarter, far exceeding the growth expectations of about 1 percent from international organizations and investment banks.

The real GDP, adjusted for inflation, reached 470.8 trillion won (424 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter, surpassing 468.8 trillion won (422 billion U.S. dollars) tallied in the fourth quarter of 2019, just one quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

Hong added that the economy would keep a better-than-forecast growth path this year given the positive economic data in April.

The country's export jumped 45.4 percent for the first 20 days of April compared to a year earlier, while credit card spending soared 17.5 percent in the 20-day period.

Sentiment among consumers over economic situations continued to improve for the first four months of this year.

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