|Citizens pass by a notice of a temporary shutdown posted at the entrance of Lotteria's Seoul Station branch, Wednesday. At least 11 Lotteria employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the previous day. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
A COVID-19 group infection broke out among Lotteria employees, affecting at least 11 who attended a managerial meeting, health authorities said Wednesday, noting that they are bracing for additional cases traced to Lotte Group's fast-food chain.
This is reigniting concerns over a possible spike in the number of new infections in the country, as the infections involving Lotteria came at the same times as cases traced to a local church have continued to increase.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), about 20 Lotteria employees including managers of some branches had dinner together on Aug. 6 to discuss measures to improve performance.
One of the participants who is a resident in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, was confirmed to have COVID-19 Tuesday, and three more participants who reside in Seoul tested positive later that day.
The KCDC said seven more meeting participants tested positive for the virus as of 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The authorities are carrying out an epidemiological investigation into the cases.
"We are working to determine the exact infection route and other people who came into contact with those infected," a KCDC official said, noting that the participants of the meeting did not wear face masks.
Lotteria shut down some branches,including the Seoul Station branch, to disinfect them.
Adding to the woes is a continuous increase in the number of virus patients traced to a church in Goyang.
The church added one more infection as of noon Wednesday, raising its related caseload to 34.
Infections traced to the church have already spread to Namdaemun Market, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Seoul, as well as to daycare centers.
Meanwhile, the country added 54 new cases Tuesday, including 35 local infections, bringing the total caseload to 14,714, according to the KCDC.