SEOUL — The South Korean government will be introducing QR code-based customer logs at bars and night clubs to facilitate contact tracing following mass infections at those establishments.
Since a coronavirus cluster emerged around nightlife spots at Seoul’s Itaewon district earlier this month, more than 200 cases linked to the cluster have been reported. South Korea’s health authorities designated bars, karaokes and nightclubs as “high-risk venues.”
“We are introducing a QR-code based electronic customer log in order to procure an accurate database of visitors and promptly operate the infection control network,” South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday. “We experienced a lot of difficulties investigating the Itaewon club outbreak because many people entered false information in the visitors’ log.”
Some of Itaewon’s virus hotspots were identified as gay bars, which could have put off customers from providing their personal information in a country where homosexuality is still largely a taboo.
In wake of the outbreak at Itaewon, South Korean health authorities tracked down the clubgoers using credit card-statements, mobile phone data and CCTV footage.
Along with mass testing, the aggressive contact tracing regime of South Korea has been credited as a contributor to the country’s early success in virus control. However, the vast amount of personal data collected and disclosed by health authorities also raised concerns about privacy infringement.
Minister Park said the new digital log will be managed under protocols to protect the integrity of the collected data. Personally identifying information will be encrypted on the database which only authorized officials can access and the data will be deleted after a four-week expiry deadline.
The new log system will be implemented next month following a demonstration period, according to the Health Ministry.