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(3rd LD) Infections linked to Itaewon clubs reach 102

National 16:45 May 12, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 5-6, 10, 12)

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- New coronavirus infections connected to bars and clubs in Seoul's multicultural district of Itaewon have reached 102 nationally, health authorities said Tuesday, amid concerns the figure may rise after more visitors are tested for COVID-19.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that as of Tuesday noon, 102 confirmed cases have been traced to the Itaewon cluster, with 64, or more than half of the total infections, reported in Seoul.

This marks the biggest cluster infection in the capital city after 98 cases were reported in relation to a call center in the city's southwestern ward of Guro.

Outside of the capital, 23 cases were reported in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, followed by seven in Incheon, west of Seoul, five in North Chungcheong Province and one each in North Jeolla Province, the southeastern port city of Busan and the southern island of Jeju.

By age, 67 of the cases were in their 20s, followed by 23 in their 30s and four each in their 40s and 50s. There were three under 19 and one aged over 60.

By gender, 92 were men, while 10 were women, according to the KCDC.

Earlier in the day, the KCDC said the country added 27 cases Monday, bringing total infections to 10,936 as of midnight.

Health workers are seen disinfecting streets in Itaewon located in the central Seoul ward of Yongsan on May 11, 2020. (Yonhap)

The latest figure comes amid concerns that visitors to the affected facilities who show no or mild symptoms may further spread the virus in local communities.

Health authorities have been on alert after a 29-year-old tested positive after visiting five clubs and bars in Itaewon on May 1-2, in the first local infection reported in a few days.

The case quickly swelled into an infection cluster, affecting not only the 73 who had been in Itaewon but also 29 who were infected through secondary transmission. No tertiary transmission has been reported yet.

Health authorities have urged people who visited the area in late April and early May to voluntarily get checked for the virus.

The government has so far checked around 10,300 people, including 8,490 who had signed entry logs at affected facilities or voluntarily visited screening centers.

But identifying all possible cases has proven to be a tough task as entry logs at the clubs turned out to carry false information in many cases.

As of Tuesday, some 2,000 of 5,500 visitors who visited Itaewon clubs in the affected period were still not accounted for.

People stand in line as they wait to be checked for the coronavirus at a screening center run by Yongsan Ward in central Seoul on May 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said the city has secured a list of 10,905 visitors in the area through data provided by mobile operators and it has sent text messages urging them to go through virus screening.

The city also secured a list of 494 people through credit card transactions in the affected period, he said.

Park also said the number of people who have been screened has more than doubled over the past few days after the city government began to offer anonymous testing for those who do not want to be identified.

In addition to tracking and quarantining possible patients, municipal governments across the country have suspended entertainment facilities to further contain the virus.

As of Tuesday, 12 municipal governments -- including Seoul, Daegu, Incheon and Daejeon -- have ordered or were planning to impose an administrative order for shutdowns.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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