Reports to the police over people not wearing masks have surged seventeenfold after the Seoul city government mandated face masks in an anti-virus measure, data showed Monday.
Reports on people without masks totaled 1,280 cases, or an average of 256 cases per day, between Monday and Friday last week, according to the data provided by a counter-virus team at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
This is 17 times bigger than the average daily figure of 15 reported between May 26 and Aug. 23.
Joining other local governments like Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong provinces, the Seoul city government started mandating face masks last Monday.
Under the move, all Seoul residents and visitors to the city are required to wear masks in indoor areas, as well as crowded outdoor venues, with the exception of taking them off for meals.
Under existing law, however, those who do not wear masks are not fined or punished. A revised law that approves fines of up to 100,000 won ($84) is set to go into effect on Oct. 13.
Of the reports, police said they have handled 41 cases that were judged to be crimes. Thirty-one people have been booked, including two who were arrested, and 10 were fined.
Some of those who were apprehended were alleged to have verbally or physically abused taxi or bus drivers or workers at eateries and bath facilities who asked them to put on their masks.
"We will support the validity of the mask rule by sternly dealing with (people) who do not wear masks and cause public harm by hurting other people or disrupting operations (at businesses)," a police official said.
South Korea reported 248 new coronavirus cases Monday, raising the total caseload to 19,947, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). It reported its first case in January. (Yonhap)