2nd Coronavirus Wave Feared After Itaewon Club Infections

  • By Yang Ji-ho, Ku Bon-woo, Heo Sang-woo

    May 11, 2020 09:35

    Coronavirus infections are spiking again in Korea after a man in his late 20s, who went to a nightclub and other bars in Seoul's Itaewon district over the long weekend, tested positive for coronavirus on May 6. Four days later new infections apparently linked to clubs in Itaewon had swelled to 75.

    The resurgence came amid a gradual easing of lockdown rules after new infections had stayed in single figures for around a week.

    According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases traced to Itaewon clubs stood at 49 in Seoul on Sunday, rising to 75 if cases outside the capital are included -- 16 in Gyeonggi Province, six in Incheon, two in North Chungcheong Province, one in Busan and one on Jeju Island.

    People wait in line to test for coronavirus at a makeshift facility in Seoul on Sunday.

    KCDC chief Jung Eun-kyeong told reporters, "The level of contagiousness is very high with several clubbers spreading the virus to others." But nearly half of them seem to have no symptoms, so anyone who visited clubs and bars in Itaewon over the long weekend should get themselves checked."

    The visitors' logs of the five clubs that appear to be the sources of the infections -- King, Queen, Trunk, Soho and HIM -- show 5,517 patrons from April 30 to May 5. Health officials have contacted 3,535 but the whereabouts of the rest are unknown. The personal information on the visitors' logs may not be wholly accurate but include an IT company employee, a nurse, a soldier, department store employee and a call center operator.

    Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters that the government is considering isolating everyone who went to the Itaewon clubs during the period.

    Eom Joong-shik at Gachon University Gil Hospital said, "There is a strong chance of a resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic, because infections are spreading nationwide from contact between strangers. We could be back to where we were two months ago."

    A temporary closure notice is placed in front of a nightclub in Itaewon, Seoul on May 9. /Newsis

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon in an emergency press conference on Saturday ordered all clubs and bars to shut again. Gyeonggi Province announced similar measures.

    People who violate the order and infect others will be ordered to pay for the medical costs and financial damage they cause. They could face a maximum two-year prison term or W20 million fine (US$1=W1,221).

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