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(4th LD) 15 confirmed virus cases related to Itaewon clubber, including 3 foreigners

All News 15:54 May 08, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 2-3, 12)

SEOUL/YONGIN, South Korea, May 8 (Yonhap) -- Thirteen more cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed Friday, associated with a patient who visited clubs and bars in Seoul's popular multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon over the weekend.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that 14 of the patient's contacts, including three foreign nationals and one Army officer, have so far tested positive for COVID-19. All patients are aged between 19 and 37.

The 29-year-old patient, whom health authorities consider the first patient in the cluster infection, visited five clubs and bars in Itaewon from Friday night to the early hours of Saturday last week.

Twelve of the 13 new cases were those who had visited the Itaewon clubs, with the number feared to rise, considering that at least 1,510 people were estimated to have visited the five nightlife establishments, including King Club, Trunk Club and Club Queen.

"It is highly likely that there are more cases down the road," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said during a briefing.

People walk past a dance club in the popular international district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 7, 2020. The club was shut down, as a man in his 20s who tested positive for COVID-19 visited the place on May 1. Some 500 people were reportedly there at that time. (Yonhap)

In a separate press briefing, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said 11 of the 13 patients were Seoul residents. The other two were based in nearby Gyeonggi Province, he said.

Park said the latest virus screening results showed that 97 people have tested negative, while tests for six others are under way.

City officials said they plan to track down visitors at the clubs through CCTV footage and credit card transactions, citing possible errors in the entry logs.

The development has put the authorities, as well as the public, back on high alert for a possibly bigger outbreak amid lax social distancing measures introduced earlier this week.

The government convened an emergency meeting with mayors and governors, where they are expected to review administrative orders for clubs and other establishments.

"May 2 was when the social distancing campaign was in effect and an administrative order on quarantine measures was valid for nightlife establishments in operation," said Kim. "We will see if additional measures, such as administrative orders, are necessary."

Despite the social distancing plan, the clubbers were found to have worn face masks only while waiting to enter the clubs. They did not wear the masks inside the establishments, KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong said in a press briefing.

A sign warning the public about COVID-19 risks at clubs is displayed in the central Seoul neighborhood of Itaewon on May 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

The KCDC urged visitors to those clubs to self-isolate to limit the possible spread of the virus and to report to the authorities if they show COVID-19 symptoms.

It also asked people to stay at home if they were at King Club from midnight to 3:30 a.m., Trunk Club from 1-1:40 a.m. and Club Queen from 3:30-3:50 a.m.

The patient went to Itaewon at about 11 p.m. Friday with a friend, who later tested positive, and spent time at five clubs and bars till about 3:50 a.m. the following day.

He tested positive and was admitted to a hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul, on Wednesday morning.

The 13 new cases also include a 31-year-old co-worker of the patient who was confirmed earlier on Friday to have the virus. The two work in the same IT company based in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. The man, a Yongin resident, has been admitted to a hospital in Anseong in the same province.

The city of Yongin said it identified 58 contacts of the man in its jurisdiction, including 44 co-workers. The man's company has been shut down to stem the spread of the virus.



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