Petition to impeach Moon over South Korea handling of coronavirus as cases hit 1,261

A security guard with a mask stands in front of the electronics shop in Seoul, on Feb 25, 2020, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in appears on TV. PHOTO: NYTIMES

SEOUL - More than 730,000 people in South Korea have signed a petition to impeach President Moon Jae-in over what they claim is the government's mishandling of the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.

The number of infections continued to surge, hitting 1,261 on Wednesday (Feb 26).

The petition criticised Mr Moon for not banning all visitors from China, where the coronavirus originated, and for sending three million face masks to China. Only visitors from China's Hubei province are banned from entering South Korea.

The death tally stands at 12, including a 36-year-old Mongolian who flew in for a liver transplant but caught the virus while in hospital.

A total of 284 new cases were reported yesterday, with most of them linked to two clusters of infections in the south-eastern city of Daegu and nearby Cheongdo. There are 49 cases in Seoul and 58 in Busan, coming mainly from small clusters of outbreaks at churches and hospitals.

The authorities have said that mass infections in the country started from a Feb 16 church service by the Daegu branch of the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The church has submitted a list of its 212,000 members nationwide to the government, so health officials can start testing those who have flu-like symptoms.

Even as the government goes all out to curb the spread of the virus, such as revising an infectious disease act to fine people up to three million won (S$3,450) for refusing to a test for the virus and limiting the export of face masks to 10 per cent of the output, criticism of the Moon administration's initial laidback response has grown.

The petition calling for his impeachment was filed with the presidential Blue House on Feb 4.

The petitioner wrote: "Seeing Moon Jae-in's response to the new coronavirus, I feel that he is more of a President for China than Korea.

"We cannot just watch this catastrophe any more.... I call for impeachment."

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