South Korea searches for clubgoers after rising nightclub-linked infections

Seoul, May 11 (efe-epa).-South Korean authorities were on Monday trying to locate some 3,000 people who had visited nightclubs in a Seoul entertainment neighborhood that has erupted as a new cluster of coronavirus infections linked mostly to clubgoers.

The mayor of the South Korean capital, Park Won-soon, said in an interview with KBS public broadcaster that the city government had obtained the data of the 5,517 people who visited the five affected nightclubs and bars in the multicultural district of Itaewon.

Park said the nightclubs and bars had recorded the names and phone numbers of all the people who visited there between Apr. 30 and May 5.

However, the mayor said the authorities have contacted only 2,405 so far for testing and quarantine.

Park said that 1,982 people may have given false information or have been evading being contacted since the clubs and bars are mostly linked to the LGTBQ community, which faces widespread discrimination in South Korea.

South Korean authorities have sent a text message to all phone numbers in the country asking those who visited the five establishments to take a PCR test to determine if they have contracted the virus and quarantine themselves for 14 days even if the results come out negative.

“Still, the majority of the visitors are not reachable. The testing rate (linked to the Itaewon case) remains less than half,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, news agency Yonhap reported.

Chung stressed the need for all these people to be tested quickly to prevent the virus from spreading in Seoul and its surrounding areas, where around 26 million people – more than half of the country’s population – live.

Authorities say those who are tested may do so while keeping their names and personal information confidential.

However, many believe that at a time when this is the only major outbreak in the country, the fact that quarantine is mandatory for them will let family members and coworkers know that they visited the affected clubs.

Meanwhile, the authorities are considering fining those who were in those nightclubs and bars if they end up not cooperating.

South Korea, one of the countries that until last week had been able to contain the spread of COVID-19 most efficiently despite not imposing a lockdown, reported 35 new cases on Monday – the highest daily increase in a month – out of which 29 belong to the new outbreak, for a total of 85 cases in different parts of the country.

After the report of the outbreak, the Seoul Metropolitan government ordered all nightclubs to remain closed until further notice. EFE-EPA


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