SEOUL, March 16 (Korea Bizwire) — The Seoul metropolitan area will implement more stringent antivirus measures on virus-prone facilities and expand testing on foreign workers at industrial complexes in the area to better contain the coronavirus, the health authority said Tuesday.
Health authorities said they will closely monitor 30 multi-use facilities, including parks, amusement parks, department stores and markets, in the wider Seoul area until March 31 in response to growing concerns over a rising number of visitors in spring.
Authorities in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province will also step up monitoring of workplaces considered vulnerable to group infections and expand preemptive testing on foreign workers at such facilities.
The latest measure comes as the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 52 million population, has shown no sign of a letup in virus cases in recent weeks under eased distancing regulations.
The daily new cases hovered around 400 on growing cluster infections over the past week, while the wider Seoul area accounted for about 70-80 percent of new cases, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
“Nursing homes and religious facilities reported fewer additional cases in February, but workplaces and multi-use facilities have seen a rise in new cases,” Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said in a briefing.
“People have been less vigilant about social distancing due to pandemic fatigue, while belated testing of patients and lax monitoring on closed environments also remain risk factors.”
Authorities said they will encourage more foreign workers to get tested to detect potential cases and reduce risks of group infections.
The labor ministry said it has inspected over 8,000 manufacturers with dormitories for foreign employees to check their working conditions, and many of them were considered vulnerable to group infections due to their crowded and closed environment.
The Seoul metropolitan government said it will issue an administrative order to require foreign workers and their employers to get tested for the virus by the end of this month.
The municipal government will expand the testing capacity up to 3,600 a day during the period and slap fines on employers who do not abide by the order.
The Gyeonggi provincial government will require employers to demand testing results before hiring foreigners from March 22 until April 30.
The country has implemented Level 2 social distancing measures, the third highest in the five-tier curbs, in the wider Seoul area since February.
Under the measures, restaurants and other public facilities in the greater Seoul area can operate till 10 p.m., with other areas having no restrictions on business. But private gatherings of five or more people are banned.