National Assembly shut after reporter tests positive for Covid-19
The National Assembly was shut Thursday after a photojournalist who had covered the ruling party on the previous day was confirmed as being infected with the coronavirus.
All standing committee meetings scheduled for the day were canceled, and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition parties also canceled their meetings.
Decontamination procedures were carried out at the main building, the press center and lawmakers’ office building of the National Assembly starting Wednesday night. The main building was decontaminated as of 2 a.m. Thursday, and the lawmakers’ office building was disinfected as of 6:40 a.m. Decontamination workers started their operation at the press center later in the morning.
According to the DP and the National Assembly, the photojournalist was confirmed as being infected with Covid-19 Wednesday night. Earlier in the morning, he had covered the Supreme Council meeting of the DP, which was attended by leaders of the ruling party.
About 30 people were in the conference room located in the National Assembly. Among them were Chairman Lee Hae-chan, floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon, Chief Policymaker Cho Jeong-sik and Secretary-general Yun Ho-jung. Nam In-soon, Park Kwang-on and Lee Hyung-seok, members of the Supreme Council, also attended the meeting.
Six journalists were in the conference room, the DP said.
The DP members started their self-quarantine on Wednesday after they learned that the photojournalist took the coronavirus test. After the test confirmed infection, the DP canceled all party meetings.
The party also informed its officials at 8 a.m. on Wednesday that the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) will decide Thursday morning who should undergo tests. It instructed them not to go on their own to the hospital to take a test and asked them to continue self-isolation.
Investigators from the KCDC started contact tracing at the National Assembly. This involved analysis of CCTV records. Those identified as having had a close contact with the photojournalist are required to undergo a mandatory two-week self-quarantine, even if their coronavirus test indicates that they are not infected.
A DP official said that protective barriers were placed at the conference room table, so the chance of infection is low.
After the Supreme Council meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Kim, floor leader of the DP, had a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug and his opposition counterparty, floor leader Joo Ho-young of the United Future Party (UFP). The National Assembly and the UFP started contact tracing to prevent a possible chain of infection.
Park and lawmakers who attended the meeting all wore face masks when they talked. Since they did not have close, direct contact with the infected person, they have not been placed under mandatory self-quarantine.
The UFP said it has canceled party meetings scheduled for Thursday. Other opposition parties also canceled their meetings.
Ten standing committees of the National Assembly were scheduled to have meetings on Thursday, but they were all postponed to next week.
BY SER MYO-JA, KIM HYO-SEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]