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(LEAD) Seoul call center emerges as infection cluster, numbers feared to rise

All News 10:56 March 10, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 4, 6, photo; CORRECTS number in 2nd para)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- A call center in southwestern Seoul has emerged as a minor cluster for COVID-19 infections Tuesday, with at least 34 people, including employees and their families, diagnosed with the contagious virus.

A 19-story building in the neighborhood of Sindorim was closed down and disinfected late Monday after workers at a call center on its 11th floor were confirmed as patients, according to the Guro Ward.

At least 34 people, including workers and their families who live in different parts of Seoul and neighboring Incheon and the city of Gwangmyeong in Gyeonggi Province, were affected.

People who work at a building in southwestern Seoul where infections occurred stand in a line to be checked for the new coronavirus on March 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

But numbers are feared to rise considering the building's location in one of the busiest areas in southwestern Seoul where subway lines No. 1 and 2 pass through. An inspection of more than 200 employees and trainees is also under way.

The office of Guro Ward, where the building is located, said it has set up an inspection center on the ground floor of the building and plans to carry out additional checks for residents.

The building's lower 12 floors are used as offices and commercial facilities, while 140 residential flats are located in the top seven floors, according to search engine Naver's property market section.

This photo taken on March 10, 2020, shows a building in southwestern Seoul where infections occurred at a call center located on the 11th floor. (Yonhap)

The latest cluster of infections was identified at the call center operated by Metanet Mplatform, a call center whose clients include the local affiliate of global insurance group Chubb.

Nearly 80 percent of more than 7,000 infections reported in South Korea are attributed to group transmissions, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

While the minor religious sect of Shincheonji is associated with more than 60 percent of all infections, infections have also occurred in minor clusters in hospitals, religious services and even Zumba classes.

In Seoul, 14 infections occurred at the Eunpyeong St. Mary's Hospital, a general hospital in northwestern Seoul, and 13 in a residential complex in the Seongdong Ward as of Monday, according to the KCDC.


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