SEOUL-- President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday called for more people to get their third COVID-19 vaccine shot as health authorities feared a further spread of the omicron variant.
Moon voiced his concerns about the spread of the highly transmissible variant during a luncheon with leaders of the country's seven largest religions at Cheong Wa Dae.
"The health authorities and medical staff are doing their best, but it is more important than anything for those who are eligible to get their third shots quickly," he said, noting the potential for omicron cases to surge during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Moon said the numbers of critically ill COVID-19 patients and deaths were largely brought under control during the current fourth wave of the pandemic thanks to the high booster administration rate among senior citizens aged 60 and above.
From now on, he said, the rate among the younger population will determine the extent of damage from omicron.
To the religious leaders representing Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and other groups, Moon said their cooperation with the government's social distancing restrictions helped bring infections down at religious facilities and asked for their continued assistance in easing public fears about the vaccines.
Moon also discussed his concerns about the political atmosphere, saying he believes the final task for the nation's democracy is to overcome hostility and divides between people, and move toward unity and reconciliation.
"It's worrying that it appears to go backward during election times," he said, apparently referring to the presidential election in March.
Moon asked the religious leaders to lead the nation toward unity, saying the job is for politicians but "that role was not completely fulfilled, myself included."
On the global climate crisis, he requested their leadership in encouraging people's participation on the road to carbon neutrality.
Source: Yonhap News Agency