May 14, 2020 10:16
Coronavirus infections traced to clubbers in Seoul's party district of Itaewon are being spreading across the country.
One 25-year-old crammer instructor in Incheon who had been to a club in Itaewon is thought to have infected at least 10 other people, including seven teenage students, one parent and one co-worker. He apparently had no or very mild symptoms himself. Two of the students then attended services in churches in Incheon with over 1,000 believers, causing concern of a fresh spike in infections.
The instructor did not inform authorities of his occupation, making it difficult for health officials to respond swiftly.
An official at the Incheon city government said, "The man lied that he was unemployed. We will file charges against him for violating the law on preventing the spread of infectious diseases." The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of two years or a W20 million fine (US$1=W1,225).
Infections traced to Itaewon clubgoers have also been found in Busan, South Gyeongsang Province and North and South Chuncheong provinces, raising the total number of related cases to 133.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "Coronavirus is an extremely vicious virus. If one person is infected, they could end up causing even more damage to those close to them and the entire community through secondary and tertiary infections."
The government has sped up screening for potential carriers. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government will trace mobile phone records, CCTV footage and credit card data to track down all Itaewon visitors and have them tested within this week.
But the search is proving difficult because many wrote false information in the visitors' logs of nightclubs and bars. One nightclub called Made, which is among nine in Itaewon where infections have been detected, submitted a visitors' log of 1,410 names. But 22 percent of them cannot be reached, because they left false contact numbers.
"Around 36 percent of Itaewon clubgoers are displaying no symptoms, so it is extremely difficult to quarantine them," Jeong said.
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