Seoul mandates masks for ferry crew and passengers

Arion Jeju, one of South Korea's domestic ferries. Credit: FONTAINE, RICHARD

South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) has mandated that crew and passengers on local ferries must wear face masks on board, ahead of the peak summer vacation season.

The obligation for crew and passengers to wear masks is consistent with the ‘no mask, no ride’ policy that was launched on 26 May on all modes of public transport in South Korea.

President Moon Jae-in’s government was forced to reinstate social distancing measures after experiencing a spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections after allowing schools, restaurants, and places of interest to reopen earlier this month. South Korea had been praised for containing an initial COVID-19 wave that resulted in more than 11,000 infections.

In late February 2020, the government resolved the shortage of masks by purchasing 50% of masks produced locally, and then delivering the masks at a discounted price to local pharmacies.

Guidelines released by the MOF on 27 May 2020 stated that ferry operators may deny entry to passengers who do not wear masks and those who fail to comply may be fined.

In addition, all crew and employees on board need to wear a mask. If this is not observed, an order to improve the business will be issued to errant operators, in accordance with Article 14 of the Korean Shipping Act.

The guidelines stated, “The spring and summer seasons are periods of high demand for coastal ferry passengers, and more thorough quarantine management is needed. Please be sure to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

According to these guidelines, ferry passengers should keep a distance of 1–2 m apart from each other in common areas such as waiting rooms and open spaces such as the cabin. Ferry staff should also space out passengers in designated seating arrangements. In addition, hand sanitisers should be provided.