City Hall virus outbreak puts capital's plans on pause

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City Hall virus outbreak puts capital's plans on pause

A total of 22 Seoul city government officials tested positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, putting important year-end city affairs on hold.
 
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the officials positive with the virus all worked on the same floor in the Seoul City Hall's Seosomun-dong office in Jung District, central Seoul, about 300 meters (984 feet) away from the main City Hall office where Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon works.
 
"We confirmed that the workers have not had any official meetings or dinners together in recent months," said an official from Seoul City Hall. "We will need to wait for the health authorities' contact tracing results to figure out where and how this cluster infection began."
 
The first Covid-19 case in City Hall was reported Wednesday. The official was immediately sent home after being notified that he was positive for Covid-19. His floor was shut down on the same day.
 
Since then, some 200 workers in the building have completed PCR testing.
 
Due to the infections and shutdowns, some of city’s affairs are being put on hold, including the 2022 Seoul city budget proposal review meeting.
 
According to Seoul City Hall, one of the 22 officials who contracted the virus was in attendance during the first day of the city’s two-day budget review meeting on Monday, also held at the City Hall’s Seosomun office.  
 
The second day of the meeting, which was supposed to be held Wednesday, has been postponed.
 
“Some 30 officials and workers who attended the 2022 budget review have all undergone PCR testing, and as of now, all their tests have come out negative,” said an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Council’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.
 
The City Hall said that it will reschedule the second session of the meeting for Friday if no other attendees of the meetings report positive.
 
The delay puts time pressure on city government officials and Seoul Metropolitan Council’s budget committee to reach an agreement on next year’s budget.
 
Due to disagreements on details of the proposal, the Seoul Metropolitan Council’s budget committee has rejected the city’s budget proposal once already.
 
The approved proposal needs to be confirmed at the plenary session at least 15 days before the beginning of the fiscal year.
 
“We will do our best to come to an agreement on the budget before Nov. 22,” said the official from the Seoul Metropolitan Council’s budget committee.
 
A previous cluster infection in Seoul City Hall occurred in July, when 12 workers tested positive. The infections began from an official who visited a public bathhouse in Dongjak District, southern Seoul.

BY PARK SA-RA, LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joongang.co.kr]
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