(Date & Time: April 2, 2020 (Thurs.), 11 a.m., Briefing Room, Seoul City Hall)
<Preemptive Response with Testing for All Travelers Entering South Korea from Overseas>
In Seoul, collective infections are occurring in places where close contact takes place between people, such as churches, and the number of travelers coming in from abroad is increasing.
As of April 2, the number of confirmed cases related to international arrivals is 158, which makes up over 30% of the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Yesterday, 18 out of 20 new confirmed cases were related to travelers who came to South Korea from overseas. Among them, 90% were those with South Korean citizenship, including students studying abroad and people living in foreign countries, and the other 10% were non- South Korean nationals.
The South Korean government has decided that, starting on April 1, all travelers entering the country from foreign countries must abide by the mandatory self-isolation for two weeks to prevent local infections caused by international arrivals. However, seeing a relatively larger number of travelers coming in from overseas, the Seoul Metropolitan Government resolved to take more drastic, preemptive, and full-scale measures. Starting on April 3, all Seoul residents coming from overseas must receive mandatory testing. Accordingly, the city is establishing a large cluster of walk-in screening centers dedicated to travelers entering the country from abroad in the Main Jamsil Olympic Stadium. The facility will be able to accommodate a daily average of about 1,000 individuals.
First, Seoul residents arriving from foreign countries will have their temperatures checked upon arrival Those with symptoms will receive testing at the Incheon International Airport, while those without symptoms will be tested for the virus at the walk-in screening center exclusively set up for travelers in the Main Jamsil Olympic Stadium or at the designated screening clinics in the public health centers of their districts. The testing upon arrival was designed for travelers, as once they go home, it is dangerous and inconvenient to visit the designated screening clinic to get tested as they should be in self-isolation.
To facilitate the transportation of travelers, Seoul will be providing eight limousine buses for exclusive service from the airport. Those who could not get tested on the day they arrived should get tested at the designated screening clinic in the local public health center within a few days. Even if the testing proves the patient negative for the virus, they should still abide by the self-quarantine rule for two weeks and be tested again if they show any related symptoms during that period.
All travelers entering South Korea should be fully aware of the mandatory two-week self-isolation rule before arriving, and they should install the “Self-Quarantine Safety” app.
During the period of self-isolation, you should avoid contact with other people as much as possible. This rule is applied to family members as well. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward individuals who are caught violating the self-isolation rules.
For reference, starting on April 5, breaches of self-isolation caught by health authorities can face a sentence of up to a year in jail or a fine of KRW 10 million.
Currently, Seoul citizens are aggressively fighting the infectious disease as subjects of quarantine, enduring much inconvenience and pain. Thanks to their efforts, Seoul has been well protected. We are afraid, however, there is a possibility that an indiscreet and reckless action of one or two individuals can bring down the dike that has been held up by everybody. Therefore, the city asks travelers coming in from abroad to fully understand that the mandatory testing and two-week self-quarantine are inevitable measures to prevent local transmission as the minimum duties of a democratic citizen who cares about their neighbors.
<About the Seoul Disaster Emergency Living Expenses and the Government’s Emergency Disaster Relief Funds>
Next, I will talk about Seoul’s decision related to the “Seoul Disaster Emergency Living Expenses” and the “Emergency Disaster Relief Funds” distributed by the central government and about which many people are curious.
Starting on March 30, Seoul has been accepting applications for the Seoul Disaster Emergency Living Expenses on the Seoul Welfare Portal and over the phone. As of this morning, 142,369 applications have been submitted.
In an emergency state like this, speed is what matters. Within three days, support was given to a total of 25 individuals.
However, with the Emergency Disaster Relief Funds of the Central Government being offered at the same time, many citizens are confused. I understand their questions, such as, “Can I receive support from the central government on top of the support from the Seoul Metropolitan Government?” and, “Will the amount of support be reduced if the supports overlap?” Inquiries are flooding in over the phone.
The bottom line is that you can receive both.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has already been directing all its power by mobilizing all finances it can possibly provide, including from the emergency disaster management fund and supplementary budget, to protect its citizens whose livelihoods are being threatened following the COVID-19 outbreak. It is obvious that financial difficulties will follow, including deteriorated tax revenue conditions.
Nevertheless, the municipal government has made a decision to organize additional support with the belief that citizens’ lives must come first.
Seoul will take painstaking special measures to prepare additional funds that add up to KRW 350 billion, following the policy of the central government for enabling its Emergency Disaster Relief Funds that require local governments to share the 20% of the expenses.
This is the third decision made by Seoul to aid Seoul residents, following the first remedy, “Seoul Disaster Emergency Living Expenses,” and the second one, “10-day Commitment” to innovative funds for people’s livelihoods.
The city will make strenuous efforts to prepare resources to alleviate the burdens of citizens caused by COVID-19 with the second supplementary budget. The philosophy and belief of Seoul is that citizens come first, and the city comes after. It is my belief and value as well that Seoul can survive only if the citizens survive.
It will take quite a long time before the “Emergency Disaster Relief Funds” announced by the central government is completely distributed, as the details of the support must be determined and the second supplementary budget must be passed.
If you have hesitated to apply for the Seoul Disaster Emergency Living Expenses with concerns about being excluded from the support offered by the central government, feel comfortable to receive aid from Seoul first, and apply for support from the central government later on.
<Cooperation of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Following the Postponement of the New School Year and the Opening of School Online>
Now, I would like to speak about support for the opening of school online, of which parents should be keeping a close watch.
As the new school year has been postponed again and a step-by-step online school opening was adopted as the national policy, preparation for online classes has become one of our most urgent tasks.
In cooperation with the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and autonomous districts, Seoul will secure 52,000 smart laptops for students who need them so that they can participate in interactive video classes, bridging the gaps in digital education. The Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, and autonomous districts will offer 40%, 40%, and 20% of the expenses, respectively. I am deeply grateful to the superintendent of education and the heads of autonomous districts. Together, we will be able to get through these hardships.
Additionally, in the long term, the city will work together closely with the Office of Education to build an education share system that uses collective intelligence when creating educational online content, easing the burdens of teachers and making high quality educational content.
Furthermore, the care service network that seamlessly connects the Elementary Care Classes and Community Kium Centers in Seoul will fill and minimize the gaps in care.
We have fought well, and we will continue to fight well. The past 70 days proves it. Everything that has been done is thanks to the citizens.
To protect the health and safety of its proud citizens, Seoul will continue to take transparent and preemptive actions. We will put citizens’ lives first. We will make Seoul a city in which your children can go to school safely.
Seoul will always be on the front line in this battle against COVID-19.
The vaccine for the city of Seoul is its unwavering citizens. Thank you.