SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday faced growing public pressure over his Covid-19 vaccine procurement plans as the country reported its second-highest daily tally of cases.
Local media has lambasted the government's approach to securing newly developed vaccines as too relaxed and overly reliant on locally produced shots, which will take more time than overseas options.
According to a poll by research firm Realmeter, six in 10 South Koreans believe urgency should be prioritised over safety when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines and that inoculations should start as soon as possible, given the rapid surge in cases.
South Korea had 1,092 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 52,550, with 739 deaths, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. The record high of 1,097 cases was logged on Sunday.
Late on Tuesday, Mr Moon's office said a public inoculation programme would "not begin too late". The government previously said vaccinations could start as early as next February.
Dr Son Young-rae, a senior official at the Health Ministry, said that the United States and Britain, suffering much higher case numbers and death rates, have no alternative to anti-virus measures other than vaccines.
"These countries are somewhat inappropriate for us to take as teachers, and considering the process of safety checks, we believe there is no reason for us to be the world's first or second country to receive the vaccines," he said.
The first batch of vaccines for US military personnel stationed in South Korea will arrive as early as today, a source said.
South Korea's aggressive tracing and testing early in the pandemic made the country a global success story, but the recent surge in cases has confounded efforts to contain the virus.
Seoul and its surrounding areas have banned gatherings of more than four people with effect from yesterday until Jan 3, and both restaurant owners and patrons could face fines of up to three million won (S$3,600) for violating the order.
6 in 10
Proportion of South Koreans polled who believe urgency should be prioritised over safety when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines.
The authorities have also shut down ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the spread during the Christmas and New Year holidays.