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(LEAD) Seoul city orders clubs, bars to close following group infection in Itaewon

National 15:18 May 09, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details from press briefing, infection cases throughout)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul city government on Saturday effectively suspended business at clubs and bars in the city after recent infections in the city's popular multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon put health authorities on alert over a possibly bigger outbreak.

Under an administrative order that has gone into effect immediately, all clubs, bars, "room salons" and other nightlife establishments across the capital will be banned from hosting crowds of people, virtually suspending businesses at such venues.

"Such facilities have to suspend business immediately and will face strict punishment if they breach (the order)," Mayor Park Won-soon said in a press briefing, adding the order will remain in effect under further notice.

"The decision was made on the judgment that a suspension advisory is insufficient considering the errors in entry logs, the span of dates patients visited the clubs and that a patient also visited another club in the university district of Sinchon," Park said.

A person walks 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)

The precautionary measure comes after dozens of infections were reported in relation to a 29-year-old who tested positive after spending time at five clubs and bars in Itaewon last weekend.

South Korea reported 18 new cases Saturday, with 17 of those linked to the clubber.

But health authorities forecast the number to further rise considering that at least 1,500 people signed in entry logs at the affected facilities.

Officials have urged people who visited the Itaewon clubs and bars, including King Club, Trunk Club and Club Queen, between April 29 and Wednesday to receive screening tests and refrain from going outside to prevent additional transmissions.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has confirmed 27 cases traced to the Itaewon clubber, including the patient's colleagues, as well as families and acquaintances of other patients.

The figure, tallied at 9 a.m., showed 13 were affected in Seoul, followed by 12 in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, one in North Chungcheong Province and another in the southern port city of Busan.

Park, however, said 40 cases have been confirmed nationally as of noon, including 27 in Seoul, 12 in Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, and one in Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of the capital.

The recent infections are believed to have mostly broken out when the country was still under a social distancing scheme.

South Korea started shifting to an everyday life quarantine Wednesday, relaxing the social distancing measures after the country's new infections fell to single-digit figures.

"Please keep in mind that the everyday life quarantine does not mean we can go back to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic started," the mayor said.


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