|Visitors waring face masks watch a reenactment of the Royal Guards Changing Ceremony, which had been suspended due to the new coronavirus, at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, Thursday, May 21, 2020. AP|
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 23 new COVID-19 infections Saturday amid stepped-up efforts to slow the spread of the disease linked to five bars and nightclubs in the capital's entertainment district of Itaewon.
The new coronavirus infections raised the country's total caseload to 11,165, the KCDC said, adding that two more patients had died, bringing the death toll to 266. The number of new cases has grown over the past couple of days due to infections tied to the nightclubs and bars
Of the 23 newly reported cases, 10 were linked to Itaewon, nine were other community infections, and four were imported cases, according to the KCDC.
Since May 6, when a 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus following visits to the bars and nightclubs, 219 cases have been connected to him and other club-goers, it added.
The southeastern city of Daegu, once the epicenter of the coronavirus in South Korea, also reported its first case linked to Itaewon, Saturday.
The country also continued to see infections related to a nurse at Samsung Medical Center. Three people ― two workers at bars that the nurse visited earlier and one of the employees' family members ― have tested positive, bringing the total related cases to nine.
Disclosing the names of the bars and "noraebang," or private karaoke rooms, in Seoul, the authorities called on people who visited the places to undergo a virus test even if they do not have symptoms and asked them to refrain such venues.
"We've seen sporadic community infections every day. ... We must not lower our guard," KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook told reporters in a briefing.
"As for infection clusters, speeding up efforts to stem the spread is a must. We are carrying out comprehensive testing and thorough contact tracing," Kwon said, vowing to expedite these moves.
Gyeonggi Province Government extended its "no-assembly" order for entertainment facilities for another two weeks until June 7 to stem any possible COVID-19 spread through them.
The local government first imposed the administrative order May 10, which bans all such spots for adults, including clubs and cabaret venues. Under the order, several other types of entertainment facilities, such as coin-operated noraebang, were also put under the temporary suspension.
Similar administrative measures have been in effect in Seoul and the adjacent Incheon following infections from those venues.
The continued spread of the outbreak has put the health authorities on alert, as the country gears up for another round of school re-openings May 27.
Following the resumption of in-person classes for high school seniors May 20, second-grade high school, third-grade middle school, and first- and second-grade elementary school students, and kindergarten attendees are to return to class this coming Wednesday after a months-long delay.
"We will further beef up our national emergency response system in the run-up to the planned resumption of classes," Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said during a meeting earlier in the day.
The authorities also plan to put in place a system next week to monitor and trace a mysterious illness among children that has been reported overseas recently.
Several children exposed to COVID-19 have developed "pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome," or MIS-C, which may be linked to the new coronavirus, according to media reports.
The fatality rate in South Korea is currently 2.38 percent, the KCDC said, noting the country has not yet reported any deaths from patients aged 29 or younger.
The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 10,194, up 32 from the previous day, according to the KCDC.
The government has tested 814,420 people since Jan. 3, and 21,569 citizens are awaiting their results, it added. (Yonhap)