Starting Monday, people in Seoul will be required to wear masks while in public. Seo Jeong-hyup, acting mayor of Seoul, made the announcement at a press briefing on Sunday, hours after the country reported 397 new coronavirus cases.
South Korea is scrambling to contain the nationwide spread of COVID-19. There have been over 2,600 cases in the past 10 days, following a stretch in which the daily cases stayed in the double digits. Under Seoul’s mandate, residents must wear masks and face coverings at all times in public, except when they’re eating or drinking.
Seoulites have been required to keep masks on when using public transit since May 13. “Wearing masks is at the very foundation of quarantine in daily life,” Seo said. “Our citizens have been very cooperative with our mandate on mask-wearing on public transit. I expect them to once again establish the new social norm.”
In addition to mandating masks, Seo also said the city will apply a “one strike and you’re out” policy on facilities that must be closed while Seoul remains under strict social distancing guidelines.
The list includes restaurants at least 150 square meters in size, water parks, cinemas and concert halls. Starting Monday, a single violation will result in a two-week suspension of operations. Depending on the severity of the violation, the city may also levy a fine of a maximum of 3 million won (US$2,520) and press charges.
“So far, considering the difficult livelihoods of people (running those businesses), we’ve only issued warnings on violations of quarantine rules,” Seo said. “But given the gravity of the current situation, we’ll try our best to stem further spread of COVID-19.”
All of South Korea has been placed under Level 2 in the three-tier social distancing system. The government said it isn’t yet time to consider raising it to Level 3, though local governments may push it up on their own. Seo stayed on the side of caution, saying he’ll have to consider the impact Level 3 can have on quarantining and the local economy before making any move. (Yonhap)