SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, October 21, 2021 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced that it will introduce stringent COVID containment measures until December. The scheme is to minimize community infections by preventing the spread of the virus and swiftly responding to confirmed cases in traditional markets where consecutive clusters were reported.Presently, there are 352 traditional markets within Seoul, and approximately 110,000 merchants are working for 57,000 stores.
As medium and large traditional markets in city centers, such as Garak Market in Songpa-gu and Shinjungbu Market in Jung-gu, have seen cluster infections and community infection, Seoul saw that infection risks still exist in those markets. Hence it decided to implement stronger but tailored measures for traditional markets.
<Introduction of Call Entry Log into Medium and Large Size Traditional Market with Over 100 Stores and Communal Workspaces>
First and foremost, the SMG will launch the “Call Entry Log” at 108 traditional markets where difficulties in identifying visitors may result in contact tracing issues. Big traditional markets with high foot traffic and more than 100 stores, traditional markets with communal workspaces, such as meat processing facilities, and markets with many foreign workers are subject to this scheme.
Once vendors and consumers call each market’s unique number (080-XXX-XXXX), the visiting time and telephone number are stored in a separate server but automatically deleted after four weeks. So far, the paper entry logs in traditional markets have been poorly handled. Besides, the information on the records was often inaccurate, causing difficulties in contact tracing.
The SMG stressed that the number of daily visitors of the 108 markets amounts to 655,000. The city government strongly believes that the Call Entry Log will allow rapid contact tracing and thus stop the spread of the virus. That is because the information about street vendors, peddlers, shortterm contractors, foreign workers, and delivery workers, which was hard to collect, will be readily available.
Another advantage of the Call Entry Log is that it is less prone to leakage and illegal use of personal information, unlike handwritten logs. In addition, it is easy to use even for senior citizens who had to struggle to use QR codes. So, naturally, the efficiency of containment measures is expected to increase.
<For vendors who cannot leave their stores, pop-up COVID testing sites will be installed in 40 markets with flexible visiting hours>
In October, pop-up COVID-19 testing sites will be installed for store owners and workers who cannot leave their workplaces for a long time. Based on each market, visiting hours of each site will vary to increase the utilization rate.
The pop-up testing centers will be first open in 40 places where cluster infection occurred before or many visitors and wholesalers from all over the country flock into. Seoul will then decide whether to expand the scheme across the city after analyzing its efficiency.
The operating hours of the centers will vary by market. Citizens working in traditional markets have had difficulties getting tested as they could not leave their workplaces for a long time. Moreover, the visiting hours of testing sites—9 AM to 5 PM—overlapped with the merchant’s working hours.
For instance, Seoul will run a “morning testing site” when there are few buyers in general markets. There will be an “evening testing site” in night markets, running after vendors’ late-night business hours.
Currently, the SMG is ramping up its efforts to make traditional markets safe enough by conducting regular containment investigations, providing hygiene products, and supporting preventive measures for 300 traditional markets within the city. For example, when there is a patient in one of the markets, a special disinfection service provider will arrive within an hour and swiftly clean and disinfect the area to minimize the spread of the virus.
Since the pandemic outbreak, Seoul has conducted six containment investigations on all traditional markets so far. Additionally, it engaged in on-site inspection of 128 medium and large size traditional markets where there were cluster infections from the end of September to the beginning of October.
“Stores in traditional markets are in close quarters, and vendors have a close relationship, so the virus is highly likely to spread. Also, given a large number of visitors, if there is an outbreak, it will spread like wildfire,” said Han Young-Hee, Director General of Labor & Livelihood Security Policy Bureau. “To help our vendors in traditional markets who are struggling with COVID-19 and secure the safety of visitors, we are introducing Call Entry Log and temporary testing sites, aiming to prevent the outbreak and spread of the virus.”