Mandatory QR code scanning went into effect Wednesday for bars, room salons and singing rooms across Korea, one of many measures taken by the health authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19. Also, indoor sporting facilities and indoor theaters must scan visitors.
The government introduced the mandatory scanning as infections linked to entertainment outlets have continued after an outbreak linked to bars in early May.
For churches and cram schools which have also seen a massive number of people gather, however, the government is only recommending QR code scanning so far.
The scanning is expected to further assist the government’s efforts to trace the whereabouts and contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Until now, the government mainly used credit card transaction records and phone signals, but this drew criticism for infringing on privacy.
It is unclear if QR code scanning will let the government off the hook.
Information saved in the QR code is saved for up to four weeks until it gets discarded automatically. The quarantine authorities can access the information with a request to the Korea Social Security Information Service.
People who wish to create their own QR code on their phones can do it on Naver’s website or through an app.
“We appreciate Naver for its help and cooperation in implementing the QR code scanning system,” Lee Kang-ho, a government official handling the quarantine measures, said during a daily press conference Wednesday.
However, people unfamiliar with the code system said there could be difficulties.
“I am not very much familiar with the use of a smartphone or Naver,” an anonymous 67-year-old man said.
The government said it will make videos to show people how to download and use QR codes.
Violators will face fines up to 3 million won and businesses may receive shutdown orders, but the government said it will not impose sanctions until the beginning of July so that people can have time to familiarize themselves with the new system.
The daily increase of cases in Korea dived to single digits at the end of April, but the number rose again from May. In recent days, Korea has seen between 30 and 50 new infections every day, mostly in Seoul and the metropolitan area, worrying the quarantine authorities.
The government said it was seeing an increasing number of cases with no clear transmission vectors and that posed a great challenge in its fight against the infectious disease.
Meanwhile, a lower court in Suwon handed out a two-year prison sentence to a 28-year-old woman who lied to the authorities about her whereabouts to get a coronavirus test in February.
She called 119 from a highway Feb. 21 and said she had a fever and was coughing after visiting the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.
That was when people who had been to the Shincheonji Church were getting free testing. She was picked up by an ambulance from a highway rest area and taken to a nearby testing center. Her test results were negative.
The court said she violated the Infectious Disease Law by disturbing the work of the quarantine authorities.