Concerns are mounting about the prevalent “community spread” of Covid-19, as new virus cases show up originating from bars and clubs not just in Itaewon but other hot spots in Seoul, including the Hongdae area.
Epidemiological experts say people infected with the coronavirus, knowingly or not, made contacts with an unspecified number of strangers at entertainment establishments during the extended holiday, which might have sparked “super-spread,” citing many of the newly confirmed patients moved in separate routes.
The public health authorities are going all out to find when and where these community spreads might have occurred. Still, the movements of these infected people are too complicated to trace. Officials said there seem to be “multiple epicenters” in the latest outbreak.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday that the government plans to find and test all of those who visited Itaewon, by the end of this week.
At the daily task force meeting, Prime Minister Chung said that there are still people not reached yet, but the government will use all means available to trace them. "The government will not ask any other questions than whether or not they visited Itaewon during the period to protect their privacy,” Chung said.
The health authorities estimate that about 10,000 people were in and around these hot spots during the period but fail to reach at least 2,000 of them.
The nation reported 26 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 10,962, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Twenty-two of them were local infections, with the other four being imported cases. Itaewon-related infections have reached 119 in total, including 69 in Seoul.
The death toll also inched up to 259, as one more patient died of the new coronavirus as of midnight Tuesday. Medical institutions discharged an additional 25 recovered people, increasing the total of cured patients to 9,695. So far, the nation tested 695,920 people of Covid-19.
The renewed cluster infections of Covid-19, mainly caused by clubbers and other young pleasure-seekers, have resulted in social conflicts between different groups and generations. A bulletin board at a Seoul apartment complex said, “Because you enjoyed your weekend, your younger brothers and sisters cannot go to school,” blaming people in their 20s and 30s who visited entertainment places during the long holiday.
Elementary and secondary schools put off their opening by another week to between May 20 and June 8.
Foreign media outlets are also paying attention to the rebound in Covid-19 outbreaks in Korea. Bloomberg News reported on Monday that the new Korean quarantine model for Covid-19 infection, one of the world's most successful cases, was put to the test with the clustered infections at clubs in Itaewon.
Among the Itaewon clubs, several of them are known to be frequented by sexual minorities. Due to the long-standing aversion of sexual minorities in the nation, however, the visitors are reluctant to reveal their identity, Bloomberg said.
As the government and some local media outlets released the name of the pub visited by a confirmed patient, criticism of sexual minorities was filling up the club's Facebook page.
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