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Special Issues

  • 2020 March (Vol.46)

  • Special Issues SMG 3084
    I SEOUL U 2020 March No.46Greetings from Seoul! 
I am Wonsoon Park, Mayor of Seoul.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. South Korea has exerted all-out efforts to block the community infections and inflow of cases from overseas. Global news media and many experts have applauded Korea for its response to contain COVID-19. 
▸Block inflow of infections through immigration control
Upon entry to Korea, all international travelers are required to check the body temperature through thermal imaging cameras at immigration, and any travelers showing symptoms of fever are asked to submit the Health Condition Questionnaire.

▸Drive-through Screening Stations for COVID-19 for quick testing and minimizing transmission risks 
As of March 16, 2020, 635 public health centers and medical institutions are operating screening clinics for COVID-19. 602 screening clinics, 94.8% of all, are directly collecting patients’ samples. Drive-through screening stations are also in operation for the convenience of citizens. The whole process takes up to 10 minutes from filling out a medical questionnaire, doctor’s examination, measuring temperature to swabbing without need to get off the car.  

▸South Korea’s world-class testing capacity of 15,000 samples daily  
A total of 118 medical institutions and health clinics are currently carrying out COVID-19 testing. So far, the government has gradually increased the number of screening clinics and test kit producers, thus the daily testing capacity has increased from 3,000 (Feb. 27) to 15,000 as of March.

▸Transparent information sharing of confirmed patients’ movements through location tracking  
The Korean government is thoroughly tracing the confirmed patients’ movements history utilizing location tracking service and big data. The details of confirmed cases and their movement history is transparently shared with the public in forms of real-time alerts through online channels and text messages.  

What many global news media highlighted was Korea’s open democracy and mature citizenship respecting the community spirit. They also complimented Korean citizens for their voluntary participation in the two-week social distancing campaign led by the government by avoiding going out and postponing gatherings. Also, citizens’ strong personal hygiene has contributed to effective quarantine efforts. 

Under the principle of ‘The most efficient cure of infectious diseases is transparency and speed,’ the Seoul Metropolitan Government has operated the 24-hour Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters from the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, it has implemented preemptive countermeasures and shared information including COVID-19 confirmed cases status, confirmed patients’ movements history, screening clinics information, in transparent and prompt manners on the website and via emergency text alerts. Such efforts are globally recognized as an exemplary case in response to an infectious disease. 

In particular, Seoul has been making various efforts to ensure foreigners residing in Seoul whose languages and cultures are diverse, are not excluded from the latest information. As part of effort, call centers are providing foreign language service, and diverse materials such as Guideline for Infectious Disease Prevention, COVID-19 infection status, and screening clinic information were translated in foreign languages and distributed both online and offline. 

Also, we are operating shuttle buses from the airport to schools for international students who travelled from a country with confirmed cases, for the safety of students. For universities that cannot afford to run school buses or call vans, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is providing necessary support.  

Seoul also offers temporary accommodation for international students who were suspected to have symptoms but tested negative as well as international students who had contact with confirmed patients and are placed in self-quarantine. Seoul is making all-out efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 with daily monitoring of international students who are living outside the dormitory by university monitoring staff making phone calls twice a day. 

Rapid containment of COVID-19 is the key to all problems at hand such as the economic situation and livelihood of citizens. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will maintain its function as a city and take preemptive administrative measures to contain the disease with voluntary cooperation of citizens. We will make utmost efforts to overcome this outbreak. 

Furthermore, the Korean Government and the Seoul Metropolitan Government will actively share our best practices in effective and transparent COVID-19 quarantine and recovery efforts with the international community. We are committed to supporting the international community in overcoming this pandemic of COVID-19 EARLY. 

Wonsoon Park,
Mayor of Seoul