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(3rd LD) S. Korea working to test Itaewon clubbers for coronavirus

All News 12:25 May 09, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by vice health minister and background in paras 9-12)

SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun vowed Saturday to mobilize all resources to contain a further spread of the new coronavirus as South Korea reported 18 more cases amid eased social distancing.

The new COVID-19 cases raised South Korea's total to 10,840. The nation's death toll remained unchanged at 256, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are put to the test," Chung said in a meeting with health officials at the main government building in central Seoul. He said South Korea's quarantine success or failure will depend on whether the country can stop a further spread of infections linked to clubs in Seoul.

The KCDC said 17 out of the 18 COVID-19 cases are associated with a person who visited clubs and bars in Seoul's popular multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon last weekend. The other is an imported case.

The 29-year-old patient, whom health authorities consider the first patient in the cluster infection, visited five clubs and bars in Itaewon from the night of May 1 to the early hours of the following morning.

Chung instructed officials to find those who visited clubs in Itaewon last week and test them for the novel coronavirus.

He also told officials to ensure that the clubbers, estimated to be 1,510 people, can receive tests while keeping their names and other personal information confidential in a move to encourage them not to go into hiding.

The KCDC has urged visitors of those clubs to self-isolate to limit the possible spread of the virus.

On Friday, the government recommended that clubs and bars suspend their businesses until June 7 and ordered them to follow thorough quarantine measures in case they keep their businesses open.

Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said the authorities can impose a fine up of 3 million won (US$2,500) on clubs and bars that fail to implement quarantine measures.

The authorities can also file a lawsuit seeking compensation against clubs and bars in case visitors are infected with the virus.

South Korea shifted to a relaxed, everyday form of social distancing earlier this week, allowing people to resume outdoor activities and public events, including holding spectator-free professional sports games and religious services.

entropy@yna.co.kr
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