Dear citizens, I am Kim Hak-jin, Vice Mayor II for Administrative Affairs.
Korea’s national holiday of Chuseok is fast approaching. In a time like this, we would normally be looking forward to spending time with family and friends, but our hearts are heavy this year. We face a paradoxical situation in which we must stay away in order to reconnect with our parents and family in health.
Such circumstances have been unimaginable before the COVID-19 outbreak, but an intense, all-out war is crucial in order to prevent another nightmare like the large-scale spreading of the virus following the National Liberation Day weekend on August 15.
As of midnight, September 27, the number of new confirmed cases in Seoul was a total of 5,212, which is 34 more than the previous day. The number of new confirmed cases from midnight to 2 PM today is 13 cases. The number has dropped, compared to the explosive numbers of confirmed cases since August 15, but the percentage of confirmed cases in the Seoul metropolitan area stand high at 70% of all confirmed cases nationwide. Sporadic infections in facilities vulnerable to the infection and facilities commonly used in everyday life, such as hospitals, convalescent hospitals and child care centers, have continued to break out.
The holiday season of early October, from Chuseok to Hangeul Day on October 9, is a crucial period that will determine whether the virus will become resurgent during the fall season. The present state of the nation that was achieved through the 10 million citizens’ endurance and sacrifice cannot be exchanged for a few days of the holiday season.
In order to prevent the resurgence of COVID-19, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) will designate two weeks of the holiday season, from September 28 to October 11, as a special quarantine period and implement five quarantine measures. In this holiday season when tensions and precautions can become relaxed, we will maintain and fortify social distancing to thoroughly prevent the recurring outbreak of COVID-19.
First, the key measures of level 2 social distancing will be extended for two weeks.
Gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors will be prohibited, including parties and local festivals during the Chuseok holiday.
Gatherings will also be prohibited at 11 high-risk facilities, which include entertainment bars, door-to-door sales facilities, clubs and coin karaoke rooms. Key quarantine measures like the wearing of masks and visitors’ logs are mandatory at multipurpose facilities, such as public spas, small and medium-sized private educational institutes, arcades and PC bangs, and all sports events, including baseball and ssireum (Korean wrestling), will be held spectator-free. Small group gatherings and meals must be continued to be banned at religious facilities, and all churches must hold online services only.
Some crowded areas of Yeouido, Ttukseom, and Banpo Hangang Parks will remain controlled until the end of the special quarantine period during the Chuseok holiday. Seoul Battleship Park and other public convenience facilities and fountains will remain closed.
Second, social distancing at restaurants, cafes, and movie theaters in Seoul will be highly enforced to heighten the quarantine levels of multipurpose facilities where dining and leisure activities are expected to increase. Restaurants, cafes, and bakeries with more than 20 seats must maintain a 1-meter distance between tables, and in the case where this is difficult, visitors must sit one seat or one table apart or sit with partition screens between tables.
Visitors to movie theaters, performing centers, and PC bangs must sit one seat apart, and while eating is allowed at PC bangs, minors will continue to be prohibited from the facilities. Only half the number of people able to be accumulated by amusement parks and water parks will be admitted.
Completely thorough disinfections will be made at high-risk facilities through special inspections, which include 350 traditional markets, 217 department stores and markets, 5 terminals, and distribution facilities. Surprise inspections will be made at 393 door-to-door businesses that deal with Chuseok gifts and direct sales to investigate the observance of the order on banned gatherings and quarantine measures.
Third, 63 public cultural facilities, including the Seoul Museum of Art and the Seoul Metropolitan Library, will be operated under restricted use if the facilities admit less then 50% of the number of people able to be accumulated and fully observe the quarantine measures.
Operations will be permitted for the 880 indoor and outdoor public sports facilities, which include the Jamsil Assistant Stadium and the World Cup Stadium Futsal Ground, under full observance of the quarantine measures, and the facilities will be operated temporarily from September 28 to October 11 after a preparatory period for operations. However, other facilities and welfare and care facilities will remain closed.
Fourth, unlawful acts that obstruct the lives and safety of the citizens will not be tolerated.
All gatherings of more than ten people will continue to be prohibited, and other gatherings of less than 10 people and those held at prohibited areas will be banned due to the risk of infections. The SMG will actively cooperate with the government and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to block the sources of all gatherings, including those using vehicles.
Thorough on-site inspections will be made to prosecute the promoters and participants of unlawful gatherings.
Special control of illegal parking in Gwanghwamun Square and its vicinity will be enforced to prevent unlawful gatherings on National Foundation Day (October 3) and Hangeul Day (October 9). In the case that public safety is of concern, active inspections will be made at Gwanghwamun Station, City Hall Station, and other subway stations.
Fifth, refraining from traveling to one’s hometown is a key preventive measure.
On September 20–26, the movements of 17.5% confirmed cases in Seoul could not be traced, and the percentage of asymptomatic cases has reached 30.8%. When the silent spreading of the infection in the local society spreads from the heavily congested Seoul metropolitan area to other areas, the latent virus can once again break out anywhere. As elders are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease, visits to one’s hometown to fulfill one’s filial duties can become the cause of tragic situations. We earnestly ask that the citizens limit all movements, including visits to hometowns and travels. The SMG has also urged its public officials to refrain from visiting their hometowns to set good examples for the public. Buses that traveled to hometowns annually will not be operated this year.
Dear citizens, holiday traditions must change during this unprecedented COVID-19 era. We ask that you give the safe gift of social distancing to your parents and remain at home instead of returning to your hometowns to protect the health of your family, friends, and community.
In the case that you must travel, please fully observe the quarantine measures, such as the wearing of face masks, and we ask that you actively make use of the online memorial rites when honoring the deceased.
We have prepared an abundance of online content that can be enjoyed at home, including cultural programs of various genres and 112 park programs to view mountains and green sceneries at the comfort of your home.
Medical systems for prevention and treatment of the infectious disease will be in normal operation.
Screening clinics, hospitals specializing in infectious diseases, and daily treatment centers will also be in full operation for use anytime COVID-19 is suspected.
Chuseok is a time to be thankful for a year’s harvest. In the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, we hope that this holiday season, our citizens continue to show their mature civic awareness so that the quarantine efforts achieved by the 10 million citizens during the past eight months can be harvested to its full. Thank you.