March 24, 2020 13:10
Drive-thru coronavirus test stations developed in Korea have been gaining global attention since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic crisis.
The U.S. and some other countries have decided to adopt them, and here almost everything is becoming drive-thru to avoid human contact.
The idea came from McDonalds decades ago but is suddenly enjoying a vogue. Chang Eung-jung (35) owns a Korean barbecue restaurant in Daegu, the hotbed of coronavirus infection. She has been selling pork ribs to drive-by customers since last week, packing four servings of barbecued pork plus vegetables and doenjang jjigae, or soybean paste stew, for customers who order ahead by telephone.
Once a customer arrives, a masked waiter wearing plastic gloves hands over the food. Chang had 15 eat-in customers on March 15 but 25 takeaway ones.
Lee In-sook (54), who introduced a drive-thru service at her rice soup restaurant in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, said, "Sales declined 80 percent after the coronavirus outbreak, so I started this to overcome tough conditions."
In the southern port city of Pohang, the city government cooperated with fish farmers to sell fresh fish to drive-thru customers. Fish farmers have also been hit hard by the outbreak as many restaurants have closed down temporarily or reduced their business.
The trend is not just limited to commercial businesses. A public library in Seongdong District in central Seoul began lending out books through a drive-thru counter. The library had been closed since Feb. 19, when the coronavirus epidemic spiked. But now people can reserve books online and then drive up to the counter and pick up the books after a quick identification process.
The books have been disinfected and put in sterile plastic bags. Shin Kyung-wha (39), a mother of four children, borrowed five books last weekend. "Schools are temporarily closed and my kids have homework writing book reports, but public libraries are mostly closed and my budget is too tight to buy all the books."
Libraries in Seoul's Seocho District as well as Pohang and Jeju Island are starting to offer the same service.
Changwon in South Gyeongsang Province started loaning toys to children via drive-thru counters last week. Each person can borrow up to two toys.
"As the epidemic drags on, we decided to lend toys from drive-thru counters for kids who have to stay home. We plan to continue the service until things get back to normal."
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