SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, March 5, 2021 – The Seoul Metropolitan Government will boost its preventative protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in neighborhoods with high concentrations of international residents to circumvent infection clusters at workplaces with foreign employees, as seen in numerous recent cases in other nearby cities.
The city stresses the importance of preemptive testing for foreign residents, as such measures will help them avoid infecting friends, family, and those around them. The tests aim to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus, thus helping contain the pandemic and alleviating concerns about silent COVID-19 infections in their communities.
The city government is aware of non-Korean residents’ concerns that in the event they test positive for the virus, they would have to go into self-isolation or check into hospitals, which would adversely impact their livelihood, as well as the possibility that they may face discrimination if their identity is exposed.
As such, it plans to provide guidance for safe and confidential testing procedures. It emphasized that preemptive tests are free for everyone, and those that go into self-quarantine will receive aid to partially cover living expenses, a full financial backing in case of hospitalization, an exemption from notifying immigration officials, as well as free translation in 13 languages available from migrant worker support groups and foreign communities.
There are three main protocols involving areas of Seoul with a high concentration of foreign residents and companies with a large number of non-Korean employees: (1) A more rigorous disinfection and preventative measures, (2) On-site inspections at workplaces, such as manufacturing, construction, accommodation businesses, and massage parlors that hire a largenumber of non-Korean workforces, and (3) Actively relaying more information about preemptive testing to around 240,000 non-Koreans residing in the capital.
Firstly, the city plans to focus on rigorous disinfection and preventative protocols in Guro-gu, Geumcheon-gu, and Yeongdeungpo-gu districts with a highly dense foreign population. It will focus inspections on group facilities, workplaces, shelters, and foreign communities that may have been previously left behind in implementing disinfection protocols, thereby ensuring there are no blind spots.
City officials have already increased the number of testing stations as they expect the number of preemptive tests to surge in the three specified districts at least until March 14. It will extend their hours of operation on Thursdays and Fridays by four hours, taking into account the majority of their weekly schedules. It will also open for testing in the morning on Sundays.
Secondly, the city will carry out on-site inspections at workplaces that employ a large number of foreign workers. Inspectors will visit some 3,000 companies in the manufacturing, construction, and accommodation sectors, as well as massage parlors to encourage non-Koreans to take preemptive tests. A total of 404 massage parlors in Seoul are facing heavier scrutiny from city inspectors than most other businesses, during the three-week inspection period ending on March 19.
Thirdly, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, together with autonomous districts, will encourage the city’s 240,000 foreign residents to actively take preemptive tests. Last month, 847 workers at 18 Migrant Worker Support Centers and 25 Multicultural Support Centers around the city took part in preemptive testing.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government is expanding the number and operating hours at temporary preemptive testing stations for foreign residents to broaden the scope within their community,” said Song Da-yeong Deputy Mayor for Women & Family Policy Affairs. “The city will strive to continually publicize the need for these tests and conduct on-site inspections so that there are no blind spots in these areas, and to ensure a safe living environment for foreign residents.”