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South Korean capital orders coronavirus tests for all foreign workers

Seoul had around 240,000 registered foreigners at the end of 2020.

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People wearing face masks walk by the headquarters of the Bank of Korea in Seoul, South Korea (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

People wearing face masks walk by the headquarters of the Bank of Korea in Seoul, South Korea (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

People wearing face masks walk by the headquarters of the Bank of Korea in Seoul, South Korea (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

South Korea’s capital has ordered coronavirus tests for all foreign workers as the country expands mass testing targeting expatriates in a campaign that has triggered complaints of discrimination.

Seoul officials said on Wednesday the testing requirement covers all foreign nationals employed in the city, regardless of their visa status, as well as their employers.

They could face fines of up to two million won (1,768 US dollars) if they fail to get tested until the end of March.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Seoul had around 240,000 registered foreigners at the end of 2020, but city officials did not have an immediate estimate on how many of them would be covered by tests.

The decision comes after similar measures in nearby Gyeonggi province, which is also forcing employers to require tests for new foreign jobseekers and hire only those who test negative.

Critics have questioned why South Korean authorities are mandating broad tests based on nationality instead of specifically targeting people with vulnerable working conditions.

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A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against coronavirus walks past a banner at a park in Seoul, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against coronavirus walks past a banner at a park in Seoul, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

AP/PA Images

A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against coronavirus walks past a banner at a park in Seoul, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

The testing campaign targeting foreigners came in response to outbreaks among low-skilled foreign workers employed at Gyeonggi factories, who often face hash working and living conditions that expose them to higher infection risks.

Thousands of foreigners waited in hours-long lines at designated testing stations in Gyeonggi over the weekend.

The province said it has found 149 positive cases among some 160,000 foreigners tested during the week through to Monday.

PA


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