All Seoul residents, with or without respiratory symptoms, can get tested for the novel coronavirus free of charge starting Monday as part of the city government’s drive to detect “silent” virus spreaders at an early stage.
Previously, those who were asymptomatic had to pay about 160,000 won ($133) if their test results came back negative unless they had been told to be tested by a doctor or health authorities.
The move comes as Seoul, home to about 10 million people, and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province grapple with a rise in new infections linked to small religious gatherings, sports facilities, and promotional events and, more alarmingly, cases whose transmission routes remain unknown.
Applications for the free virus testing began on the city government’s website Monday. Applicants will be notified of when and where they should go at least three days in advance.
All residents can apply and all will be tested, but the free testing is limited to once per person and is only at seven city-run hospitals, including Boramae Medical Center and Seoul Medical Center, according to city officials.
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To meet the high demand for virus testing, samples from five to 10 individuals are pooled and tested together. Only if the pool results are positive will the samples be tested individually. Up to 1,000 people are to be tested for the virus per week on a first-come-first-served basis.
The municipality expects some 200,000 people will seek testing in the second half of this year.
Also starting Monday, the Seoul Metropolitan Government recommended the closure of some 350 table tennis clubs in the capital and banned large gatherings for promotional events, for educational or recreational purposes, which are usually held in enclosed spaces, until further notice.
The municipality called for better adherence to quarantine rules at table tennis clubs and networking businesses, amid growing cases linked to sports facilities and door-to-door sales activities in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Source: The Korea Herald, Seoul Metropolitan Government