Employees of industrial plants wait to take coronavirus tests at an industrial complex in Namyangju, northeast of Seoul, on Wednesday, after massive coronavirus infections of foreign workers were reported there. (Yonhap)
Quarantine authorities are to conduct intensive coronavirus field inspections at foreigner-dense areas and workplaces and other places deemed highly vulnerable to the pandemic, a government agency said Friday, after recent outbreaks of virus clusters at factories.
According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, about 1,000 places nationwide, including industrial plants, large-scale workplaces and construction sites, will be subject to such field inspections from Monday to March 2.
In particular, five workplaces with a number of in-house subcontractors and 500 construction sites will come under intensive scrutiny regarding their observance of COVID-19-related quarantine guidelines, the agency said.
Those workplaces will be inspected to see whether they comply with basic quarantine rules related to mask wearing by their employees, including those from subcontractors, indoor ventilation and the operations of dining and rest rooms and dormitories, it noted.
Any violations will be punished with a fine through the concerned local governments, it added.
In a related move, 1,945 workplaces, including small and medium-sized firms and meat processing companies in industrial parks in the greater Seoul area, will be asked to voluntarily check suspected coronavirus symptoms among their 16,000-odd foreign employees, as well as quarantine situations at their dormitories and their emergency action plans.
The government's coronavirus-related inspections have so far been restricted to agricultural workplaces, where a large number of foreigners are employed.
A coronavirus cluster from a plastic manufacturing plant in Namyangju, just northeast of Seoul, has so far infected 130 workers and family members, including 113 foreign workers from 17 countries. The foreign employees reportedly lived together in the plant's dormitory.
At a boiler manufacturing plant in central South Korea, as many as 160 workers and family members, including 24 foreign nationals, have so far tested positive for COVID-19.
Government data also showed 58 construction sites across the country have reported 216 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday.
The Ministry of Justice has recently announced a decision to allow all foreigners staying illegally in South Korea to take coronavirus tests free of charge without disclosing their identities. It also said crackdowns on illegal stayers will be temporarily suspended to help minimize loopholes in the nation's ongoing fight against the pandemic.
Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said that quarantine takes precedence over crackdowns on illegal stayers during his visit to a Namyangju industrial complex where the plastic plant coronavirus cluster is located.
"Even foreigners staying here illegally can take the coronavirus test without a visa verification process. And they won't be subject to forced deportation even if they are treated for COVID-19," Park said. (Yonhap)