President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in will visit three countries in the Middle East -- the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- on an eight-day trip beginning Jan. 15, according to the presidential office on Monday.
Moon will first visit the UAE between Jan. 16-17 at the invitation of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. It is Moon‘s first visit to the country in four years.
After the UAE, he will visit Saudi Arabia for two days to hold talks with Saudi Arabia‘s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and to attend a business forum. Then, Moon will make a state visit to Egypt at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for the last two days of the tour.
During the trip, Moon will focus on strengthening ties with the countries and seeking ways to collaborate in the future, Cheong Wa Dae said.
For the time being, Moon is focusing on domestic issues, stressing that it is a matter of time before the omicron variant becomes the dominant strain of coronavirus in Korea, urging related officials to quickly reach a conclusion on expanding vaccinations for children and adolescents and a fourth round of inoculations.
“Two major hurdles await us,” Moon said at the 2022’s first meeting of senior staff members and advisers on Monday. “The first is a concern about the spread during the Lunar New Year holiday and the second is the possibility of the omicron variant in full swing.”
“There is a possibility that the two situations will overlap,” Moon said. “Due to the worldwide spread of the omicron variant, the number of daily confirmed cases in the US and Europe exceeds 1 million each, experiencing the worst spread, and neighboring Japan is also showing a surge.”
When the omicron variant does become the dominant strain in Korea, it seems inevitable that the number of confirmed cases will temporarily rise again, he said.
“It’s a situation where we have to be very nervous and wary,” Moon said. “For us, it may be the last crisis.”
The dominant version of the coronavirus in South Korea currently is the delta variant, but the omicron variant has begun to increase, particularly among imported cases.
“It has been repeatedly confirmed that vaccination is the most important thing in reducing the spread of omicron or lowering the rate of critically ill patients and fatality,” Moon said. He believes the expansion of the third round of vaccination among the elderly is playing a decisive role in calming the current spread and reducing the number of severely ill patients.
“Therefore, the speed of third vaccination for those in their 50s and younger is now the key to determining the magnitude of the omicron damage,” he said. Moon also urged officials to quickly conclude the expansion of vaccinations for children and adolescents and the decision on the fourth inoculation.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com