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[Diplomatic circuit] Embassies join ‘social distancing’ campaign

A pedestrian passes by a poster on
A pedestrian passes by a poster on "social-distancing" in Seoul, March 5. (Yonhap)

Foreign missions here, while keeping a close watch on the coronavirus situation, are joining the South Korean government’s “social distancing” drive to contain the outbreak.

Many have put public events on hold, including national day celebrations, and have authorized flexible work hours and remote work for employees.

The British Embassy told The Korea Herald that it is encouraging its staff to work from home to reduce direct human contact and the potential for virus transmission.

“Remote working practices are well established within the embassy, which remains fully operational. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep our travel advice updated to reflect local developments,” its spokesperson said.

The Canadian Embassy has also aligned its practices with recommendations from the Korean government, as well as procedures in place at other embassies and Korean companies, it said.

“They include flexible hours, teleworking and flexibility to approve requests for annual leave on an individual basis,” an embassy official said.

“The embassy is committed to the safety and security of its employees. We encourage our staff to follow health precautions as recommended by local authorities, the WHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada. We also implemented additional measures, including screening procedures for external visitors, canceling public events at the embassy until further notice and reinforcing cleaning protocol,” the official added.

The Singapore Embassy in Seoul said it had put precautions in place for the well-being of its staff and visitors, including temperature screening and the provision of hand sanitizers.

“Without affecting the embassy’s operations, it has also implemented its business continuity plan with two teams of staff working from the embassy and from home respectively,” the embassy said.

“The embassy keeps a close watch on the latest situation and stays in close touch with the Singaporean community in South, providing them with the latest COVID-19 developments through its social media platform. The embassy wishes the South Korean government success in this fight against COVID-19.”

Last week, the Bulgarian Embassy and the Kuwaiti Embassy became the two latest missions here to cancel national day events as health experts urge people to avoid gatherings.

Korea has the second-largest number of infections outside of China.

As of Monday morning, the virus had sickened over 7,380 and killed 53, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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