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Korea struggles to contain Itaewon-linked virus casesPeople without masks can’t use subways in Seoul
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2020.05.12 13:23
  • Updated 2020.05.13 12:34
  • comments 0

Local public health authorities continued their struggle on Tuesday to minimize the fallout from cluster infections linked to clubs and bars in Itaewon, Seoul, as Korea is witnessing related cases show up throughout the country.

Some 2,500 out of nearly 8,000 visitors to the multicultural district in the capital city during recent holidays are still out of contact.

A total of 101 new Covid-19 cases, including 64 in Seoul, have been reported originating from entertainment places in Itaewon, one of the districts most frequented by youngsters and foreigners.

According to the City Hall, more than 1,500 people were believed to have visited the clubs and bars during the time the patient visited the club on May 1. In total, the municipal government has secured the names of 5,517 people who visited the affected facilities but has gotten in touch with just 2,405 of them.

To prevent any additional outbreaks, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon imposed an administrative order to effectively suspend business at clubs, bars and other nightlife establishments on Saturday until further notice.

Nationwide, the country recorded 27 new Covid-19 cases as of midnight Monday, raising the total to 10,936, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Of the 27 cases, five were new arrivals, increasing the cumulative number of imported cases to 1,138. The death toll rose to 258, as two more people died of the new coronavirus on Monday. Hospitals released 38 more patients after a full recovery, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 9,670. The nation has tested 680,890 suspected patients. Among them, 653,624 people responded negatively to the test, and the other 16,330 people are waiting for the results.

The local bourse showed swift reactions to the rebound of virus outbreaks, both at home and abroad.

Korea's stock market opened lower Tuesday reeling in from the overnight losses on Wall Street amid the growing concerns over a rebound on Coivd-19 patients across the globe.

The benchmark Kospi fell 20.69 points, or 1.07 percent, to 1,914.71 points, and the secondary Kosdaq market fell 5.53 points, or 0.81 percent, to 679.51 in the first hour of trading.

The Korean won is also showing signs of weakness with the local currency trading at 1,227won against the U.S. dollar, down 3.30 won from the previous session's close.

Businesses that had hoped to recoup their losses just a week ago when the country seemed to have had the virus under control are likely to remain in the doldrums.

Notably, the tourism industry's revenue slumped to a nine-year low in March due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. According to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, revenue from inbound travelers reached $729.8 million in March, down a drastic 67 percent from a year earlier to hit bottom since January 2011.

Tightening up its quarantine system, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has decided to keep people who are not wearing face-masks from using subways when the proportion of passengers to train capacity hits more than 150 percent. The new measure will go into effect on Wednesday.

For citizens who did not bring their masks, the local government plans to sell surgical masks at vending machines, sales outlets, and convenience stores located at subway stations in the capital city.

The City Hall also plans to dispatch safety personnel to 10 most congested subway stations and 10 transit stations to advise passengers to keep their distances from one another from June while operating more trains during rush hour to reduce the level of congestion.

However, the city will allow buses to keep their window open while running air conditioners as part of precautionary measures against the coronavirus during the summer period.

The decision came amid concerns that air conditioning in closed spaces may result in the spreading of Covid-19 among passengers. So far, the central and local governments have banned air-conditioned buses from running with their windows open as part of national energy-saving campaigns.


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