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New Culture Minister floats rapid virus test to support industry
Published : Feb 15, 2021 - 15:43
Updated : Feb 15, 2021 - 15:43
New Culture Minister Hwang Hee Sunday looks around local theater Dream Theater in Jongro-gu, Seoul. (Culture Ministry)

Visiting theaters in Daehangno Sunday, new Culture Minister Hwang Hee suggested testing audiences with rapid coronavirus tests, as part of measures to prop up the hard-hit sector.

Hwang suggested establishing two temporary centers in the art neighborhood for rapid polymerase chain reaction testing, which is currently under review by authorities. If the audiences can be tested right before using the facilities, the theaters would be able to operate without the one-seat-apart social distancing rule currently in place, he said.

“Currently, it takes 54 minutes to get the result of a rapid PCR test and this can be further reduced to 30 minutes. It has applied for approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety,“ Hwang said.

“(Through this PCR test), we plan to support tourism and hold some festivals,” he added.

Art venues have been suffering since COVID-19 seating rules, requiring two empty seats between every audience member, were put in place in December, leaving occupancy rates at around 30 per cent. The rules were eased earlier this month.

During his visit of two theaters, Artist House and Dream Theater, Hwang noted there have not been any confirmed cases linked to theaters and said he would look into the rationale behind the government’s decision on the current social distancing rules.

Hwang also talked about his concerns on how to support artists who have been dealt a heavy blow by the pandemic.

“The first thing I said after coming into the office was ‘let’s think about whether to first give paints or bread to hungry painters,’” Hwang said.

He also stressed the importance of investing in cultural infrastructure development as well as spearheading the government’s Korean New Deal drive to harness growth.

The two-term Democratic Party lawmaker was appointed the new culture minister on Wednesday.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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