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(LEAD) Infection cases linked to Itaewon clubs rise to 86

All News 15:03 May 11, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline with new number; ADDS more info in paras 1-2, 9-14)

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- The number of new coronavirus infections connected to bars and clubs in Seoul's popular nightlife district of Itaewon climbed to 86 on Monday, health authorities said.

The number, put together as of noon, includes 63 club visitors and 23 family members and friends who came in contact with the clubbers, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said during a press briefing.

By region, Seoul has reported 51 confirmed cases so far, 21 in Gyeonggi Province, seven in Incheon, five in North Chungcheong Province, one each in Busan and Jeju Island.

The new cluster infections underline the challenge of controlling infections after the country started easing social distancing rules and introducing a new daily life with COVID-19.

The government warned against a possible rapid growth of cluster infections since the first confirmed case on Wednesday, and urged visitors to the affected establishments to get tested.

"We request active cooperation from visitors to the Itaewon clubs from April 24-May 6. Please refrain from contacting others and receive a test at near testing centers, regardless of symptoms," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health ministry official said in a separate briefing.

The Seoul city government said it would provide free testing to club visitors, as it couldn't get hold of a vast majority of them.

"Among 5,517 people on the visitor's logs obtained by the city, we reached 2,405 but couldn't do so with 3,112," Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said during a separate briefing. "This means they intentionally avoided our calls or wrote a wrong number in the first place."

In order to encourage those who don't want to reveal their identities to come forward, the city will offer free, anonymous testing, he said.

On this front, the city has been working with the police to identify and reach them.

"We will urgently deploy the coronavirus response team to identify and locate the club visitors as soon as possible," an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said in a briefing.

The 2,162-member team will check credit card transactions, cell phone signals and close-circuit television in the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the southern city of Daegu placed a two-week shutdown order on the city's nightlife establishments, some 1,300 in total. The move came after Seoul and Gyeonggi Province took the same measure on such facilities on Saturday and Sunday in the aftermath of the cluster infections in Itaewon.

Daegu government said some of the widely used entertainment facilities failed to maintain social distancing and other quarantine measures and the shutdown was a precautionary measure.

"We are discovering an increasing number of Itaewon club visitors (around the country) and we conclude there is a risk of community transmissions," Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said, adding "the executive order is inevitable to stem the spread of the infectious disease."

The country reported 35 more cases of the new coronavirus Monday, the biggest single day spike since April 9, bringing the nation's total infections to 10,909.

People pass by a club in the multicultural district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 7, 2020. The club was shut down after some of its visitors tested positive for the coronavirus recently. (Yonhap)


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