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‘Weekend will be watershed for further spread from Itaewon cluster’
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.05.15 13:52
  • Updated 2020.05.15 14:38
  • comments 0

Korea reported 27 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, pushing up the total to 11,018, according to the public health authorities.

Twenty-two of them were local infections, with the other five being imported cases. Seventeen of the 22 domestic cases resulted from the new hot spot of Itaewon, Seoul, bringing the total number to 148, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The other five local infections were unrelated to bars and clubs in Itaewon, the famous nightlife district in the capital city, turning the officials’ concerns about secondary and tertiary infections into a reality.

In the early stages of the club-related infections, most of the confirmed cases came from the clubbers themselves, at least until May 7. Between May 13 and now, however, more cases of infection through contacts were observed. The cluster infections are expanding to all over the country, centering on the workplaces and homes of confirmed patients who have been to the clubs.

According to health officials, some latest cases that seem to be tertiary infections are continuing to occur as the virus is spreading not only to places where people spend daily lives such as workplaces or homes but also to facilities like karaoke rooms.

The quarantine officials said they believe this weekend would be watershed for Itaewon-originated infections to spread further.

With the school reopening date of next Monday comes near, anxiety among parents is mounting as nearly two dozen new cases are related to schoolteachers and tutors at private educational institutions who visited Itaewon and other entertainment districts during the extended holiday from late April to early May.

Itaewon, the new epicenter, is also frequented by foreigners, and parents who send their children to English kindergartens or English schools with native English-speaking instructors are more concerned.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, 1,210 foreigners accessed their cell phone base stations from April 24 to May 6, nearby several clubs in Itaewon.

The Education Ministry said 366 native English-speaking instructors and assistants visited Itaewon. Still, the list only includes those who work for municipal and provincial offices of education. The instructors who work at English kindergartens and "hagwon," which is private schooling in Korea, were excluded.

Amid the rising public anxiety about the resurgence of Covid-19, Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo emphasized that the nation would be able to win the long battle against Covid-19 if the public follows the quarantine measures and report suspicious symptoms immediately.

"The number of patients being treated with Covid-19 has fallen below 1,000, which means that our medical system has entered into a stage where it can operate treatment system in more stable ways," Minister Park said at a daily Covid-19 task force meeting.

As the nation transits to the daily life quarantine system, the health authorities will step up efforts to prevent the infection of the elderly citizens and come up with an early detection system, marked by swift diagnostic tests of newly hospitalized people and inmate to stem any resurgence of Covid-19, Park added.

As of midnight Thursday, the death toll remained at 260, with the mortality rate reaching 2.37 percent. Hospitals have discharged 9,821 fully cured people so far, up 59 from a day earlier. The country has carried out Covid-19 tests on 726,747 people since Jan. 3. The number of patients under treatment has fallen to 937, breaking the 1,000-mark for the first time.

shim531@docdocdoc.co.kr

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