The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the police are forming a special inspection team to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in highest risk communities, including Itaewon and Gangnam, where young people are expected to gather to enjoy the Halloween festival on Oct. 31.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said on Tuesday that it will form an inspection team of 800 people jointly with the Seoul Metropolitan Government to ramp up enforcement efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 around Itaewon, Hongdae, and Gangnam areas from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. The police are also mobilizing a large number of officers from the Yongsan, Mapo, and Gangnam stations for the special crackdown.
The police will also deploy six police squads during the same period to monitor violations of COVID-19 regulations and maintain public order. In particular, the special inspection team will crack down on unlicensed bars and nightclubs operating as restaurants. The police said they will closely monitor unlicensed businesses as they can become the blind spots for crackdowns.
The city government will impose a “one-strike-out” policy on businesses violating the regulations. If any violation of COVID-19 regulations, such as logging customers or table spacing, is found, they will be subject to ban on gatherings or charges.
In particular, the city government and the police are closely watching the Itaewon area as cluster infections spawned from Itaewon clubs in May. “We’re seeing a nightclub’s promotional sign that reads ‘Indoor smoking possible’ standing next to the placard promoting COVID-19 prevention in front of the Yongsan Health Center,” said a health official. “We’re planning to clamp down on businesses violating the regulations as most of the business owners in Itaewon are collaborating with the government’s COVID-19 prevention measures.”
Business owners around the Itaewon area are expecting to pull in some big money on Halloween but at the same time are committed to follow COVID-19 prevention measures. “I can’t close my store (on Halloween) but won’t accept customers not wearing face masks,” said a business owner. “I’ve prepared face masks for my staff. I heard that the Itaewon Business Federation is installing a quarantine gate. We all agree that it’s the right thing to do,” said another business owner. The Federation is planning to install a quarantine gate at the entrance of Itaewon, equipped with safety measures, including temperature check and body disinfection.