Dear honorable citizens of Seoul,
This is Oh Se-hoon, Mayor of Seoul.
Over the last sixteen months, disease control and prevention authorities prohibited business operations and placed restriction-focused distancing measures across the board. Its basic direction was to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but at the cost of small businesses and the self-employed.
However, the results were different from our expectations. Seoul has been affected several times by the ebbs and flows of COVID-19, and we are now faced with the impending fourth wave.
The number of confirmed cases in Seoul is 34,233 as of midnight today (Apr. 12), An increase of 162 compared to the previous day. The number was slightly low as it was the weekend, but Seoul is seeing more than 200 new confirmed cases every day since Apr. 7, which is a serious cause for concern.
Most of all, local businesses that support Seoul’s economy are collapsing. Beyond their appeals of agonizing pain, business owners are being threatened to close the door of their businesses.
According to a survey conducted by the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise, 32.3% of small business owners are considering shutting down their business. There are statistics that show the weekly sales plummeted by 45% when the social distancing was reinforced.
We are in a desperate situation. We can’t just neglect and wait for a shift. We need special countermeasures.
The central government is distributing emergency relief funds to provide compensation, but it is far from being the final solution. This situation can continue until the end of the year, or the beginning of the next year, considering the current slow pace of vaccination.
I believe that the fundamental solution would be to make business owners operate their businesses.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will concentrate all its strength so that small businesses and the self-employed can operate their businesses.
We will shift the paradigm from “regulatory disease control and prevention,” where small businesses and the self-employed were forced to sacrifice, to “compatible disease control and prevention,” where citizens’ livelihood is not negatively affected.
We need a new trial and a shift of viewpoint.
This morning, at a meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, I urged the central government to actively review the introduction of COVID-19 self-test kits.
With a self-test kit, you can check the test results within ten to thirty minutes. As we know, it is actively used in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. In the US, you can buy the kit at a pharmacy or a grocery store, and in the UK, the kit is distributed for free twice a week. There are a few domestic companies that have developed and are exporting self-test kits.
However, it has not been domestically introduced because of the lack of permission by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government urges the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to quickly approve the use of the self-test kits. Moreover, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will also review the implementation of a pilot project using the rapid antigen test kit.
It is a method that is already authorized by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to be used by medical staff. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will introduce the method at karaoke establishments with lots of nighttime visitors to see if it is effective to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has started to establish the “Seoul-type Distancing Manual” for disease control and prevention compatible with citizens’ livelihoods.
We will streamline the previous disease control and prevention measures and establish more acceptable regulations for each type and condition of business for more effective outcome.
While this will minimize damage to business sales, regulations will be far stricter and violating businesses will be hit by the “one strike, you’re out” policy to enforce the sense of responsibility and duty of business owners.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will have thorough discussions with groups and institutional organizations while preparing the manual.
The manual will be prepared by this weekend and the Seoul Metropolitan Government will discuss the implementation method and time with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. The pilot operation of the manual for certain types of business before full-scale operation will also be discussed with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters to prevent any on-site confusion. If the Seoul-type Distancing Manual is executed based on the use of self-test kits at business sites, it will enable the extension of operation hours reflecting the characteristics of each business, producing a great synergy effect and letting us enter a turning point for our disease control and prevention system.
I expect that the central government will support and agree with the efforts of the Seoul Metropolitan Government for the recovery of local businesses and the public economy that are being tormented during this prolonged situation of COVID-19.