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Welfare, Health & Security News

  • Private gatherings of 5 or more people are prohibited. This is the last chance to stop the mass spread of COVID-19.

  • Welfare, Health & Security News SMG 5731

    Dear citizens of Seoul,

    As of today at midnight (Mon, Dec. 21), the total number of confirmed cases in Seoul was 15,039 with 328 added cases from yesterday, and 157 confirmed cases were reported between 12 AM and 2 PM. Within two weeks after the accumulated number of confirmed cases surpassed 10,000 on the 6th, the number rose heavily over 15,000. The total number of deaths by COVID-19 increased to 136 with six deaths occurring within a single day, which is the highest number of deaths to occur so far within Seoul.

    Social distancing levels have been reinforced three times within the past month and measures for disease control and prevention intensified, but we still face the greatest crisis amid this pandemic.

    According to the cases of mass outbreaks in the past four weeks, 41.4% of outbreaks occurred in restaurants and other multi-purpose facilities with 16.9% occurring at the workplace, 15.5% at religious facilities, and 12.3% at hospitals and convalescent hospitals. The percentages of asymptomatic cases and cases with untraceable infection routes both hit 30.1% as of last week.

    According to the use of subways, buses and other modes of public transport, the practice of social distancing by citizens decreased by 26.9% after 9 PM, but mass sporadic outbreaks continue to occur in everyday life like an unquenchable fire.

    Dear citizens,

    We cannot overcome this crisis without reducing mass infections that are spreading through private gatherings among family members, acquaintances, colleagues and friends. This is our last chance to stop the further spread of COVID-19.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), with Gyeonggi-do Province and Incheon Metropolitan City, is prohibiting private gatherings of 5 or more people starting midnight on Wed, Dec. 23 until Sun, Jan. 3.

    All alumni gatherings, club meetings, picnics, new year celebrations, company dinners, and workshops in addition to personal, intimate gatherings like savings club gatherings, housewarming parties, and all birthday celebrations are prohibited. However, the gathering of 50 or less people, the standard for level 2.5 social distancing, will be permitted for weddings and funerals.

    It goes without question that this administrative order applies to both indoor and outdoor gatherings, and the same order will apply to Gyeonggi-do Province and Incheon Metropolitan City. In the case that this order is violated, strict measures will be made, which includes a fee that will be levied on both the business owner and customer and other administrative measures.

    With the rising number of confirmed cases daily, the number of hospital beds have reached its limit. Presently, the percentage of operating hospital beds at infectious disease hospitals in Seoul is 85.4% Currently, 87 of the total 91 hospital beds for seriously ill patients in Seoul are in use with just four hospitals rooms available for hospitalization.

    The matter of availability of hospital beds for critical patients is directly connected to citizens’ lives as the percentage of confirmed patients over the age of sixty hit 32.1% last week.

    The SMG plans to add an additional nine hospital rooms for the seriously ill by today (Mon, Dec. 21) with one hospital room at Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital, four at Kyunghee University Hospital, and four at Severance Hospital in Sinchon. Additional 105 rooms will be secured by the end of this month to double accommodative capacity of hospital rooms for the critical patients.

    The number of community treatment centers in Seoul have been increased to 11 locations with 2,227 hospital beds for symptomatic patients and patients with mild symptoms, and 1,261 beds are currently in use with just 492 beds available to patients. Community treatment centers of autonomous districts have also been increased to 19 locations with 1,437 hospital beds.

    Despite such efforts, two confirmed patients in Seoul regrettably passed away before being transferred to a hospital. We offer our deepest condolences as we feel a heavy sense of responsibility. The SMG will make our best effort to secure additional hospitals beds to prevent such a situation from repeating itself while making preparations for emergency situations and lessen the uneasiness of patients as they wait for available hospital beds. To address this matter, the SMG will operate a medical consultation system for patients on standby for hospital beds at the Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital and Yeouido St. Mary’s Hospital.

    This is a system in which online medical consultations are provided to patients on standby via an app by 20 doctors at the St. Mary’s Hospitals in the fields of infectious disease, pulmonology, psychiatry, and emergency medicine. Patients can use this system for emergency measures in the case that standby patients experience worsening symptoms or emergency situations.

    The MOU for the medical consultation system at the Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital and Yeouido St. Mary’s Hospital will be concluded momentarily and will be enforced starting tomorrow.

    Furthermore, the discovery of the infection through prompt testing is our priority to stop the chain of COVID-19 infections. We will devote ourselves to stopping the chain of asymptomatic infections by largely increasing the number of tests on citizens.

    Starting on Mon, Dec. 14, the SMG began operation of temporary COVID-19 screening clinics, and 97,625 individuals were tested for one week until Sun, Dec. 20 and 281 patients were tested positive. The percentage of positive test results was 0.29%. The percentage of those who tested positive was 0.01%, which was about one in ten thousand, but the percentage of those who tested positive at the temporary screening clinics reached thirty in ten thousand, which is thirty times more than the earlier number. We conclude that the regional infection has spread extensively.

    It is clear that the uneasiness of citizens has led to more testing for the disease. The number of tests concluded daily increased by thirteen times with 2,241 tested on the first day on Mon, Dec. 14 and 28,511 tested by Fri, Dec. 18.

    2,241 (Dec. 14) / 8,336 (Dec. 15) / 11,192 (Dec. 16) / 17,576 (Dec. 17) / 28,511 (Dec. 18) / 19,740 (Dec. 19) / 10,029 (Dec. 20)

    Visiting screening clinics will be operated for high-risk individuals who cannot travel, businesses where large numbers of workers must travel all at once, and facilities needing additional support due to the sudden temporary rise in demand for tests to ensure prompt testing without blind spots.

    We ask that high-risk groups that are exposed to congested environments, such as parcel and distribution centers, call centers, sewing businesses, religious facilities, convalescent facilities, and restaurants, staff members of convalescent hospitals with high fatality rates, staff members of emergency care systems, and drivers of subways, buses and taxis be tested immediately.

    All asymptomatic citizens can be tested anonymously, free of charge, and we ask that they be tested when suspicious of the slightest symptoms. The screening clinics will be open until 9 PM on weekdays and 6 PM on weekends, and temporary screening clinics will be operated at fifty-four main locations in Seoul, including Seoul Plaza, Gangnam Station and Sindorim Station.

    Dear citizens,

    Seoul is in a state of the calm before the storm.

    If we do not put a stop to this explosive spreading, Seoul can be put on lockdown like New York and London.

    We must do all that can be done to avoid level 3 social distancing, which will put a stop to our economy and daily lives. It is a time for extreme control, sacrifice, and patience.

    Prohibiting private gatherings of five or more people effective midnight on Wed, Dec. 23 is indeed a severe measure for the citizens. However, we cannot put an end to the pandemic if we do not stop the spreading among families, acquaintances and colleagues. A time of crisis is inevitable. We sincerely ask that the citizens stand with us at the front line of taking preventive measures. Thank you.

    FAQ Regarding the Administrative Order Prohibiting Private Gatherings of 5 or More People

    ※This Q&A was prepared in consideration of the gravity of the COVID-19 situation and is subject to change in accordance with deliberations with the government and local government bodies, opinions of concerned societies and experts, and on-site opinions following the actual implementation of the measures.