Party leaders discuss emergency actions

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Party leaders discuss emergency actions

The leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties announced a nine-point agreement over the weekend on how the National Assembly will respond to the recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung and Rep. Moon Jae-in, the leader of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), along with their floor leaders, convened Sunday in a show of bipartisan cooperation to address how to ease the nation’s panic over MERS and contain its spread.

The agreement called for the establishment of a bipartisan parliamentary committee to immediately deal with the virus and other infectious diseases, among various measures.

It urged the government to swiftly disclose information vital for the public, consistently review the crisis alert level and procure isolation facilities.

The agreement added that support for hospitals with MERS outbreaks, including medical supplies like masks and protective gear, and health examinations, should be prioritized.

It further encouraged the central government to share needed information with local governments in real time, and pressed for all-around participation by those governments, regional education offices and civilians to combat MERS.

Passing a bill that will tighten quarantine measures for infectious diseases, improve response manuals and facilitate other actions to support such cases will be a priority in the National Assembly this month, it added.

They also agreed to reflect in the 2016 budget the need to build and support public hospitals, treat new types of contagious diseases and provide accommodation for quarantined patients.

“The government has failed again this time around in managing the crisis and the people’s trust has crumbled,” Moon said. “There is no control tower without the president stepping forward… The people are uneasy. Even if they have a different disease, they cannot go to the hospital because they are afraid of being contaminated by MERS.”

The talks Sunday came about after NPAD Chairman Moon gave Kim a phone call.

“When there is a national crisis, the ruling and opposition parties need bipartisan cooperation to handle easing the people’s unease,” Kim said.

“We will take all parliamentary measures necessary to alleviate such unease.”

The move comes as the two sides attempt to mend rifts amid public backlash in regard to the government’s initial response to MERS and has led some to question whether the occasion will lead to the normalization of communication between the government and political parties.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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