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Together We Stand: Seoul’s Fight Against COVID-19

Date 2020-12-03 Category Against COVID-19 Updater scaadmin
Writer
Seoul Metropolitan Government
Affiliation
International Relations Division of Planning and Coordination Office
Date
2020-04-07
Last Update
2020-12-03

Forward

Lessons from MERS - Promptness & Transparency

Seoul’s principles for contagious disease control and prevention rest on two major pillars: promptness and transparency. As experience is the best teacher, the 2015 MERS outbreak in the Republic of Korea served as a turning point for both Seoul and Korea to help build fundamentals for infectious disease response. Since then, the city of Seoul, under the leadership of Mayor Park Wonsoon, has adhered to the principles ‘Transparency is a miracle drug for contagious diseases,’ and ‘Excessive response is better than sluggish response.’

Such principles are also playing a key role in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak in Seoul. While some countries hesitated to reveal their own virus outbreaks, Seoul and Korea have kept on testing aggressively, sharing information and incrementing disinfection efforts. A series of steps – including patient testing, epidemiological investigation and quarantine has been taken without a hitch, preventing any source of infection in advance. This has enabled Seoul to maintain urban services and functions without any lockdown or stay-at-home order while practicing its containment efforts

Moreover, all the information related to COVID-19 is open to the public and shared in a transparent manner. The COVID-19 webpage which can be found in the official website of the Seoul Metropolitan Government provides updates on confirmed cases within the city, their travel logs and relevant resources along with the city’s countermeasures. More detailed specifics can also be found in the websites of each district office. The city also holds a daily press briefing on COVID-19, streamed live on the Internet and YouTube, to deliver latest developments on the outbreak and promote citizens’ cooperation in virus containment. 

Citizens Take Lead – Democratic Participation & Solidarity

A crisis brought by communicable diseases cannot be tackled without civic cooperation nationwide, and thus it is imperative to encourage individual citizens to take initiatives in the containment process. One of the reasons why Seoul has coped with the virus outbreak more effectively than others is also thanks to citizens’ voluntary participation and solidarity.

What sets COVID-19 apart from other viruses is that it is more contagious and fast-spreading. In an effort to reduce a chance of close contact and droplet infection, therefore, Seoul first proposed a social distancing campaign. With people from all walks of life keeping a distance from each other, the city has successfully continued to execute the policy measures without any compulsory shutdown or lockdown. Citizens not only strictly practice personal hygiene but also have become a great comfort to each other by sharing hand-made masks with neighbors and cutting rent fees for tenants. 

Turning Crisis into Opportunity – Innovative Ideas & Detailed Measures

As COVID-19 is spreading around the world, there was an urgent need to add more capacity in both testing and treatment. Thus, Seoul has taken several innovative approaches to scale up its diagnostic and accommodation capacity. One of the measures was to expand the screening clinics exclusively designated for coronavirus testing in number with additional ones set up in front of hospitals and locations where mass infection took place. Another one was to set up drive-through testing facilities which lower a possibility of virus transmission and close contact. Moreover, the city introduced a dual track approach in which treatment institutions are divided by the severity of a patient’s symptoms. For instance, those who show severe symptoms will receive treatment in a negative-pressure ward in a ‘Severe Emergency Treatment Center,’ while those with mild or moderate symptoms will be directed to go to a ‘Living and Treatment Support Center,’ a public agency building temporarily turned into a treatment center. 

Amid one crisis after another, Seoul’s innovative ideas with detailed measures played a significant role in tackling the infection at the initial stage. The prime example is an ‘emergency task force’ which is set up to respond to sporadic mass infection. The taskforce consists of a dozen people including epidemiological investigators and public officials and is being immediately dispatched to the site once a cluster of infections takes place. The taskforce sets up an on-site operation center and concentrates its utmost capacity to track down and prevent infections. In recent days, as the outbreak pattern has shown changes with an increasing 5 number of confirmed cases linked to arriving from overseas, the city has established a walkthrough testing facility for overseas arrivals, which can test up to 1,000 people per day and arranged special taxi services and emergency shuttle buses operating from the airport to the city.

Virus Knows No Border – Practical Solidarity & Cooperation

In a nutshell, Seoul has managed to effectively contain the spread of coronavirus while maintaining urban services and democratic systems thanks to a combination of several different factors: painful lessons from MERS, drastic investment in public healthcare system, prompt countermeasures, transparent information sharing and mature civic awareness. The city will stay committed to the COVID-19 control and prevention to save the citizens’ lives and tackle difficulties caused by this pandemic.

However, it is clear that we cannot put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic simply with a city’s or a country’s effort. Virus knows no border, and it has been reaffirmed that every single person in the world is connected in their daily lives, not to mention health care and economy. Particularly, this epidemic taught us that cities are at the forefront of epidemic control and containment. With that in mind, the city of Seoul promises to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic through practical solidarity and cooperation with other cities, as we have always had and is determined to break through the current crisis together with the global community.

Current Status in Seoul

The Seoul Metropolitan Government(SMG) is providing latest updates and transparent information on confirmed cases of COVID-19 on its website to prevent the spread of local infections. As of September 14th, Seoul has 4,711 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 3,276 recovered cases and 40 deaths. The government is updating the COVID-19 Dashboard on a daily basis.

Current Status of Seoul image 01


(Source: The Daily News Review, Seoul Metropolitan Government) 

Figure 2. Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 by Gender and Age in Seoul(as of September 15)


(Source: The Daily News Review, Seoul Metropolitan Government) 

Figure 3. Total Number of Patients Under Quarantine and Discharged in Seoul


(Source: The Daily News Review, Seoul Metropolitan Government) 

Figure 4. Number of Weekly Tests and Positive Rate of Confirmed Cases in Seoul


(Source: The Daily News Review, Seoul Metropolitan Government) 

 

And further more

For more information, please refer to the attached PDF file below.

Table of Contents


  • 1. Forward
  • 2. Current Status in Seoul
  • 3. Seoul’s COVID-19 Timeline
  • 4. Seoul’s Response to COVID-19: Measures and Policies
    • Health and Disinfection Measures
    • Citizen Engagement and Public Services
    • Economic and Financial Measures
    • Spearheading a Global Initiative to Fight Against Infectious Diseases
    • Countermeasures Against Resurgence of COVID-19
  • Reference
  • Annex
  • 1. Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)
  • 2. Public Announcement Posters on COVID-19
  • 3. Korea’s Parliamentary Election Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
  • 4. Guidelines for Administrative Order for Mandatory Mask-Wearing

FAQ

  • Q.< Q&A Ⅰ : About Mask-wearing >
    A. Answer

    1. Do I have to wear a mask at home?
    •Wearing a mask at home (at a private place) is not mandatory.
    •However, wearing a mask is recommended if a family member has a fever or respiratory symptoms.

    2. Do infants have to wear a mask?
    Wearing a mask is not mandatory for infants younger than 24 months old as their respiratory organs are still growing and they may not be able to take off their masks if it becomes difficult to breathe.
    •A caregiver should carefully observe an infant that is wearing a mask to prevent infection.

    3. Do hospitalized patients have to wear a mask?
    •Exemptions are applied for critical patients whose health can deteriorate if they wear a mask and patients with underlying diseases who could find it difficult to breathe when wearing a mask.
    •If there are other cases in which patients find it very inconvenient to wear a mask, exemptions can be applied based on a doctor’s advice.

    4. How do I wear a mask when I get dental treatment?
    •Masks may be removed if treatment is only possible without a mask at a dental or ear-nose-and- throat clinic.
    •However, a mask must be worn before and after treatment.

    5. How do I wear a mask when I brush my teeth at work?
    •It is okay not to wear a mask for personal sanitation activities, such as taking a bath, showering, washing one’s face, and brushing one’s teeth.
    •However, a mask must be worn before and after such activities.

    6. Why don’t the casts of TV programs wear masks?
    •Exceptions are applied for professional singers, actors/actresses, dubbing artists, broadcasters, models, or artists who perform or become part of the cast for audiovisual material and need to take off their masks for their job or to make money.
    •However, they must wear a mask before and after the TV program or performance. Individuals that are not part of the cast, including staff of the broadcasting station, must always wear a mask.

    7. Why don’t civil servants, including the government officials, wear masks during briefings?
    •Exceptions are applied when it is clearly difficult to achieve an objective while wearing a mask a mask during public business of the central or local government or public institution, such as foreign affairs, national defense, investigation, rescue, relief, press releases, etc.
    •It is okay not to wear a mask if prompt and precise delivery of information to the public is required. However, one must wear a mask before and after the briefing, as well as the surrounding people concerned.

    8. Do I have to wear a mask while taking pictures?
    •Masks must be worn when taking pictures for private purposes. However, masks may be removed for taking pictures of oneself (ID picture, passport photo, etc.) to submit to the central or local government or a public institution.
    •Masks may be removed for taking pictures if there are no other people (other than family members) within 2 meters.

    9. Why don’t athletes wear masks?
    •As a case in which one must take off their mask for their job or to make money, exceptions are applied for professional athletes participate in a sports game or competition.
    •However, players are checked for fever and respiratory symptoms before starting the game or competition and must wear a mask before and after the game. Other concerned individuals must always wear a mask.

    10. Do Youtubers have to wear a mask?
    •YouTubers should wear masks. However, they can create videos without a mask if they are filmed at home (private living place) or in a separate place alone without any other people or family members.
    •YouTubers can also film videos outdoors without a mask if there are no other people (other than family members) within 2 meters.

    11. Do I have to wear a mask when I play in the water at a water park, stream, or river?
    •It is recommended to refrain from going to water parks, streams, or rivers where there is a high risk of coming into contact with other people while the measures for social distancing higher than level 2 are in effect.
    •It is okay to remove a mask if it is inevitable to do activities in the water, such as swimming. However, masks must be worn before and after water activities.

    12. Can I take off my mask for smoking?
    •Exemptions from mandatory mask-wearing are applied when eating food. As cigarettes are classified as a “favorite food,” smoking is considered to be food consumption and, therefore, masks may be removed when smoking.
    •However, quitting smoking is strongly recommended as there is the possibility of transmitting infectious diseases while smoking without a mask and smokers are classified as a high-risk group in relation to COVID-19.
    •If it is inevitable to smoke, one must comply with prevention regulations, such as distancing from other people and refraining from conversing.

    13. Do I have to wear a mask when I go hiking, walking, or exercising outdoors?
    •If it is difficult to keep a distance of 2 meters from other people (other than family members), a mask must be worn while hiking, walking, or exercising outdoors.

    14. Do I have to wear a mask while working in the office?
    •Masks must be worn unless alone in a separate space, eating food, or doing personal medical or sanitary activities.

    15. Do I have to wear a mask if I work by myself in the office?
    •It is okay not to wear a mask if alone or with family members in the office.
    •However, a mask must be worn if someone visits the office from outside.

    16. Is it complying with the mandatory mask-wearing when I cover my mouth without totally covering my nose?
    •It is not possible to protect one’s respiratory organs from the virus when covering only the chin or mouth without covering the nose.
    •It is not considered wearing a mask if both the nose and mouth are not covered.

    17. Do I have to wear a mask in a restaurant or a café?
    •It is okay to remove a mask if it is inevitable to eat consumables at a cafe or a restaurant. However, a mask must be worn before and after eating and when conversing.
    As of August 30, 2020, eating food in a cafe is prohibited according to the reinforced measure of level 2 social distancing.
    •It is recommended to keep one’s mask clean if it is taken off for a moment.
    18. Do I have to wear a mask when I sing in karaoke rooms?
    •It is strongly recommended to refrain from visiting karaoke rooms during the pandemic as it is classified as a high-risk facility for its characteristics (sealed and crowded).
    As of August 19, 2020, gathering at karaoke rooms is prohibited according to the reinforced measure of level 2 social distancing.
    •If it is inevitable, a mask must always be worn, including while singing.

    19. Can I wear a cotton mask to comply with the mandatory mask-wearing regulations?
    •It is strongly recommended to wear one of the “quasi-drug” masks, such as the medical, surgical, and droplet-proof masks, that are authorized by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety after confirming its safety and function to block the droplets.
    •However, in consideration of the vulnerable classes who find it difficult to buy masks, recyclable cotton masks can be worn to follow the mandatory mask-wearing regulations.

    20. Can I wear a mesh mask to comply with the mandatory mask-wearing regulations?
    •Acknowledged types of masks are medical, surgical (dental), droplet-proof, and cotton masks. •Mesh masks are not acknowledged as their effect of blocking droplets has not been proven so far.

    21. How do I wear a mask at a wedding?
    •Everyone who attends a wedding should wear a mask in principle.
    •However, following the social distancing guidelines in a wedding hall of the government (Family Culture Division of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family-2544), the bride and the groom may be exempt from wearing masks in the wedding hall.
    Everyone must wear a mask when taking a group picture. However, the bride and the groom and their parents can remove their masks temporarily when taking photos

  • Q.< Q&A II : About Administrative Measures>
    A. Answer

    1. Isn’t the guidance period too long?
    •Article 83 (4) of the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, the law that imposes fines on those violate the order, was revised on August 12 and will be enforced starting on October 13.
    •As such, before the implementation of the supporting law, fines cannot be imposed but only guidance can be offered.
    When it comes to public transportation, a preemptive mandatory mask-wearing regulation is in operation (as of May 13). If someone does not wear a mask in the subway, they can face fines starting from KRW 250,000 and going up to KRW 1 million. As for medium-risk facilities, a mandatory mask-wearing regulation is in operation following the limitation of gatherings (as of August 19), and those who violate the measure can face fines of up to KRW 3 million.
    •However, even during the guidance period, any disinfection/disease prevention costs, such as testing, investigation, and treatment expenses related to the diagnosis, generated due to the violation of the mandatory mask-wearing regulations will be the responsibility of the perpetrator.

    2. Until when do I have to wear a mask?
    •Social distancing is currently set at level 2. If the situation is adjusted to level 1, the administrative order for mandatory mask-wearing will be removed.
    •It is strongly recommended to wear a mask following the disease prevention regulations of the “social distancing in daily life,” even after the mandatory mask-wearing regulation is lifted.

    3. If a person living in a district outside of Seoul is caught violating the mandatory mask-wearing order in Seoul, is the Seoul Metropolitan Government the principle agent of administrative action?
    •As visitors of Seoul are included in the range of targets of the administrative order by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, it is the SMG that is the principle agent of administrative action.

    4. If someone is caught violating the mandatory mask-wearing order, what administrative action will be taken?
    •The perpetrator can face fines of up to KRW 100,000 pursuant to Article 83 (4) of the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act as it is a violation of Article (1) 2-4 of the same Act. Any disinfection/disease prevention costs, such as testing, investigation, and treatment expenses related to the diagnosis, generated due to the violation of the mandatory mask-wearing regulations will be the responsibility of the perpetrator.
    •However, the imposition of fines will be postponed until October 12, 2020. Until then, the regulation is still in the guidance period when crackdown and disposition are suspended. Detailed range and methods of crackdown after the guidance period end will be announced during the guidance period.
    When it comes to public transportation, a preemptive mandatory mask-wearing regulation is in operation (as of May 13). If someone does not wear a mask in the subway, they can face fines starting from KRW 250,000 and going up to KRW 1 million. As for medium-risk facilities, a mandatory mask-wearing regulation is in operation following the limitation of gatherings (as of August 19), and those who violate the measure can face fines of up to KRW 3 million.

    5. From when will site inspections be conducted?
    •Currently, the SMG is concentrating its administrative power towards site inspections of facilities with a risk of collective infections, such as high-risk and medium-risk facilities.
    •The range of targets of the site inspections will be expanded gradually. Targets and methods of inspection will be announced separately.

    6. How and through what channel can I report a person who violates the mandatory mask-wearing order?
    •The SMG does not operate a separate channel for reports during the guidance period but will concentrate on promotion and instruction.
    •The channels and methods for reporting persons who violate the mandatory mask-wearing regulations will be announced before the end of the guidance period.

    7. Does a company get punished if its employee doesn’t wear a mask or wears a mask improperly while at work?
    •The fines will be imposed on the individual who violates the order.
    •However, the company should do its best as the manager of disinfection
    /prevention to makes efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and comply with the disinfection/prevention regulations.

Department / Contact

  • International Relations Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government  /  110 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul 04524 / http://english.seoul.go.kr  /  international@seoul.go.kr

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