(Seoul City Hall Briefing Room, 11:00 AM, Wednesday, May 6, 2020)
<Current State of COVID-19 in Seoul>
This press briefing marks the first in-person appearance since the online briefings held lately following the decision to switch “social distancing” into “distancing in daily life.” The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) will continue to spare no effort to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread any further in citizens’ daily lives.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 nationwide is 10,806 as of May 6 without a single new confirmed case as of May 5. The accumulated number of confirmed cases in Seoul is 637.
Across the country, the number of new confirmed cases is showing a steady decrease.
The number of daily new confirmed cases has decreased and continued to be at around 10 since April 18; there was no single case of local infection nationwide on April 29, May 1, May 3 and May 4 as well as yesterday on May 5.
However, we should not be at ease. Many experts are warning of an extended stage of the COVID-19 crisis and a second wave of the pandemic. Also, it is too early to say that the international community has succeeded in flattening the curve of the spread of the disease.
During this current situation of COVID-19, many experts believe that ceaseless quarantine is needed, meaning that social distancing has to become the norm.
<Switching to “Distancing in Daily Life”>
The SMG announced its new campaign of “distancing in daily life” on May 6 following the central government’s easing of the “intensive social distancing” campaign back down to “social distancing.”
The SMG has fully prepared for the daily quarantine system. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SMG organized an advisory panel made up of experts to receive counseling from experts about the response system against the infectious disease. Also, the SMG organized a sustainable disinfection council in various fields, including culture, sports and welfare, to keep communication with specialists from each field, related organizations and associations as well as members.
“Democracy Seoul,” an online platform of the SMG, has been the channel to hear precious opinions of citizens and reflect them in policies while holding meetings with experts. On the basis of such communication, the SMG will continue to establish a response system of quarantine and disinfection as well as medical services through which it will promote “distancing in daily life” with its citizens in three areas: individuals, society, and vulnerable groups.
＃First, the SMG will establish a fast and dependable system of quarantine and disinfection as well as medical services.
The SMG will strengthen its system of quarantine and disinfection as well as medical services. Anyone who is symptomatic will be detected and receive testing as soon as possible so that all citizens can have faith in the system to be taken care of and cured whenever needed, in any situation.
➀ The SMG will establish a permanent response system at designated screening clinics.
The permanent response system will be efficient and intensive. “Seoul-type case definition” will be used to enable all citizens to immediately receive counseling and medical treatment even when they have mild symptoms so as to discover patients early and preemptively prevent local infections.
➁ The SMG will enhance its epidemiological capacities to be fully prepared for collective infections.
Private epidemiology investigators who have been deployed in cases of collective infections will be operated by the SMG in a flexible manner in line with the decrease of the confirmed cases. The SMG will train them through intensive training so that they can be dispatched promptly as part of the Immediate Response Team in emergency situations.
➂ The SMG will construct a system of medical services and treatment in preparation for the occurrence of multiple patients.
Seoul’s current system of medical services and treatment can handle 300 confirmed cases per week. The SMG will improve it so that the city can cope with 1,000 new patients per week for 4 consecutive weeks.
Additionally, the SMG will gradually decrease the number of negative pressure isolation rooms (NPIRs) to prevent slippage in the treatment of other regular patients and prepare to make regular rooms into NPIRs in case of emergency.
＃Second, the SMG will take care of individuals’ disinfection and quarantine.
The reason for Seoul, a megacity with a population of approx. 10 million, being successful in disinfection and quarantine with a low number of lives lost is due to the voluntary participation of its citizens.
We earnestly ask you again to abide by the guidelines for individuals; Citizens are advised to immediately visit a designated screening clinic if they feel sick or show abnormal symptoms, and to practice not only good personal hygiene habits, such as wearing personal masks, covering your mouths when coughing and washing your hands.
＃Third, the SMG will take care of social disinfection and quarantine.
The SMG will take step-by-step control of disinfection for public and private facilities as well as restrict public assembly to minimize the possibility of transmission and contact among people.
➀ Public facilities will reopened but the number of permitted users will be reduced to 50 percent of the capacity at the beginning so that citizens can use the facilities safely. Through intensive monitoring, anything amiss will be detected and corrected.
The opening will be sequentially expanded under comprehensive consideration of the development of the contagious disease, the state of users for each facility, and the opinions of users and managers of the facilities.
With regard to the opening schedule of highly anticipated professional sports, such as baseball and soccer, baseball has recommenced on May 5 without crowds and soccer is in the process as of May 8.
On May 1, Mayor Park Won Soon of Seoul signed an MOU with Chung Un-chan, the commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), for a successful holding of the 2020 KBO League Season and citizens’ safe ballgame attendance.
Next, we will talk briefly about the time and way of reopening public facilities operated and managed by the SMG. Cultural facilities are to reopen starting on May 6. For the moment, they will be operated on the basis of advanced reservation and gradually expand their services.
Elementary care facilities, including Kium Centers and local children’s centers, will reopen after May 20, aligning with the opening of schools. When it comes to daycare centers, the time of their reopening will be decided comprehensively considering the demand for childcare, the circumstances of disinfection, etc. due to use by infants younger than two years old and with a weak immune system.
As for welfare centers, social welfare centers, day and night care centers for the elderly, and vocational rehabilitation centers for the disabled will be reopened and small-group, non-contact programs will be operated first starting on May 11 and gradually expand the service.
However, the time to reopen senior welfare centers and community centers for elderly users who are vulnerable to infection will be decided later considering the development of the communicable disease.
➁ In principle, private facilities will reopen on May 6 simultaneously with the practice of distancing in daily life. Any users who have a fever or show respiratory symptoms shall refrain from visiting those facilities, and visit a designated screening clinic instead as well as strictly follow the guidelines for individuals, such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.
We ask owners of private facilities to follow the disinfection guidelines by checking the body temperature of visitors, ventilating the facility often, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
The SMG will urge facilities with a crowded and enclosed environment that are used by multiple users, such as religious and entertainment facilities as well as noraebangs (singing rooms) and PC bangs (Internet cafes), to abide by the disinfection guidelines by recording and keeping visitors’ information, including name, contact number and time of visit.
The guide and inspection of the SMG will be continued for an educative effect and if continual violations are detected, the prohibition of assembly and prosecution for noncompliance will follow as before for strict control.
③ Public assembly, such as rallies and demonstrations, in downtown Seoul will be prohibited for the time being until we secure the firm safety against the transmission of COVID-19 even though these events take place outdoors, as there are high risks of collective infections due to the close concentration of people and it is difficult to track down the routes of transmission when a confirmed case occurs.
＃Fourth, the SMG will take care of the vulnerable groups’ disinfection and quarantine.
Disaster has a clear characteristic, regardless of age and region. It seems as if disaster treats everyone equally, but the truth is it attacks the weakest first and leaves them with the most severe and deepest wounds.
This is the reason that the SMG has done its best for disinfection of facilities for the disabled and the elderly from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rigorously managed hospitals and elderly care facilities.
We will take special care of hospitals as well as elderly care facilities and residential facilities for the disabled where senior citizens and the handicapped with vulnerable health are living by strictly blocking risks of infection from outside. Current measures will be maintained and continuously will carried out, such as the monitoring of residents twice a day, no admittance of visitors, and restriction on visits and going out.
Moreover, the SMG will leave no stone unturned to provide inclusive services through customized programs such as home visiting counseling for vulnerable senior citizens living in local communities.
The SMG wants to carefully make a step forward with its citizens so that “disinfection” and “daily life” can coexist in harmony. To maintain ordinary life along with disinfection, there is no better key to success than cooperation and participation of citizens.
We would like to plead you to be alert and participate in the campaign in your daily life, as you have done well so far. Every citizen is recommended to follow the individuals’ hygiene guidelines, such as wearing masks, washing hands often and observing the coughing etiquette.
The measure of distancing in daily life announced by the SMG will be completed by the opinions of citizens. We would like you to make diverse suggestions through the online platform “Democracy Seoul” and the social media accounts of Seoul.
The SMG will make a better model of disinfection in daily life by listening to the opinions from the Continuous Disinfection Team, Continuous Disinfection Councils in various fields, and people from various areas and classes, as well as discussing with experts.
We are now making headway no one has taken before. There are no precedents or existing vaccines or medicine. However, we have the power of sagacious citizens. To overcome this crisis, we need your patience and participation. We ask you to actively practice distancing in daily life. The vaccine for Seoul is its unwavering citizens. Thank you.
① Visit a designated screening clinic promptly when you feel sick or display abnormal symptoms.
② Wear a mask.
③ Wash hands for at least 30 seconds and observe the coughing etiquette (covering of your mouth and nose with your sleeve)
④ Keep a distance of 2 meters (at least 1 meter) apart from one another
|Entry||① Restrain from visiting when you have a fever or show respiratory symptoms, and visit a designated screening clinic.
② Wear a mask (also when you are visiting the facility).
③ Use a hand sanitizer.
|① Check the body temperature of visitors.
② Place a hand sanitizer at the entrance.
③ Check if visitors are wearing a mask.
④ Record and keep the information of visitors (time of usage, name, contact number).
|Visit||④ Frequently use the hand sanitizer(s).
⑤ Restrain from producing droplets (loud conversation, shouting, etc.) and bodily contact (shaking hands, hugging, etc.).
⑥ Observe the coughing etiquette.
|⑤ Check the body temperature at least twice a day.
⑥ Keep a distance of 2 meters between visitors (cap the number of visitors of the same place at the same time period).
⑦ Place hand sanitizers at every corner in the facility.
⑧ Ventilate the facility (open up the place if natural ventilation is available).
⑨ Disinfect the surface of facilities that are frequently contacted by visitors, such as the entrance doorknob and handrails, at least once a day.
|Exit||⑩ Control the exit of visitors lest they get concentrated and be stuck together.|
|Suspected Patients||Contact the relevant public health center, or call 1339/120|
Normal Operation of Major Public Facilities
|Cultural & religious facilities||○ Wed, May 6
※ Advanced reservation required and partial opening
Refer to the website of each facility to check the available schedule for a visit
|○ Cultural facilities
– Limiting the number of visitors and visiting time using advanced reservation system
– Gradual expansion of service and seats
– Strict adherence to disinfection rules in operation
○ Religious facilities
– Permission of operation when abiding by disinfection rules
– Continuous monitoring of compliance with disinfection rules
|Sports facilities||○ Wed, May 6||○ Public indoor sports facilities
– Gradual reopening of programs starting with programs for small groups
‣ Small group programs (for less than 5 individuals) → General program → Free usage (with a limited number of users)
– Swimming pools to reopen after the preparation of water supply starting on May 6 (over six days)
○ Exclusive use of sports facilities (renting of facilities for events or games)
– Announcement for recruiting users starting on May 6
‣ Practical use of facilities expected to begin in July after the screening of applications for borrowing
|○ Tue, May 5: Professional baseball
○ Fri, May 8: Professional soccer
※ Opening game in Seoul: Sun, May 17
|○ Professional sports (professional baseball and soccer)
– Opening as games with no on-site audience, gradually to be followed by ones with spectators
– Consultation with the KBO and K League for the time and scale of games to have an audience
|Welfare facilities||○ Step 1: Mon, May 11
○ Step 2-3:
|○ (Step 1) Small programs without face-to-face contact to be operated
– day and night care centers for the elderly, daycare centers for the disabled, sports centers for the disabled, lifelong education centers for individuals with developmental disabilities, social welfare centers, welfare centers for the disabled (except for senior welfare centers and community centers for elderly users)
○ (Step 2) Expansion of participatory medium-scale program and operation of senior welfare centers
– Expansion of running social sports programs (gyms, aerobic programs, swimming pools, etc.)
○ (Step 3) Limited normal operation (reopening of community centers for elderly users)
– Prohibition on the operation of programs that involve large-scale assembly
|Children’s & women’s facilities||○ Point of reopening to be decided after consultation with the central government considering the demand of childcare and the circumstances of disinfection||○ Daycare centers
– Urgent childcare services to be provided before the reopening of centers. If more than 50% of infants and 30% of young children members of a class attend, regular classes according to age should be organized.
– Limitation on the special group activities for the time being. Focus on programs composing of individual play.
|○ Normal operation in line with the schedule of the reopening of schools||○ Elementary care facilities
– Urgent care system to be continued before the reopening of schools (May 6-19) and support to be provided for online education
– Normal operation in line with the reopening of schools for elementary school students of grade 1-2 (on May 20-). Until the whole students start to go to school (on Jun. 1), the hours of operation will be the same as during the vacation (9 AM – 6 PM) with continuous care service including online education.
|○ Gradual normal operation starting on May 6
– (Step 1) May 6-17
– (Step 2) May 18-
– (Step 3) When the COVID-19 alert level “Red” is nullified
|○ Facilities for use
– (Step 1) Operation of small group programs (for less than 10 individuals) and limit the quota at 70% of the usual
– (Step 2) Operation of medium-scale assembly programs (for less than 30 individuals), Holding events with specified attendees
– (Step 3) Normal operation
|○ Living facilities
– (Step 1) Permission for visits in facilities, limited permission for outgo of inmates (for educational purposes and medical treatment, etc.)
– (Step 2) Permission for visits outside of facilities (no sleeping out), volunteer works permitted for limited time and number of people
– (Step 3) Normal operation
※ For female homeless with a weak immune system, the living facilities will keep the same condition as it is at the moment until normal operation is ordered.