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(2nd LD) Capital area sees resurgence in COVID-19 cases following club, hospital infections

All Headlines 14:10 May 20, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 6, 9, photo)

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- Nearly 30 new coronavirus infections were reported in the capital area, data showed Wednesday, raising alert over possible chain transmissions traced to nightspots and a key hospital in the populous area.

Infections in Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, west of Seoul, came to 28 as of midnight, with community transmissions accounting for 22 of the total, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

This marks a sharp uptick in new daily infections from those reported in the capital area earlier this week. Infections increased by single-digit figures -- nine on Tuesday, four on Monday and five on Sunday.

The figure comes amid heightened alert over the Itaewon club infections as well as nurse infections at Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul.

While the number of infections involving Itaewon clubbers slowed, the virus was appeared to have spread at karaoke facilities, "PC bangs," taxis and a vocational school.

Hospital staff wait to be checked for coronavirus at an screening center set up at Samsung Medical Center's outdoor parking lot in the southern Seoul ward of Gangnam on May 19, 2020. (Yonhap)

In Seoul alone, 100 infections traced to the Itaewon case have been reported as of Wednesday at 10 a.m., becoming the largest cluster reported in the capital.

On Tuesday, four nurses working at Samsung Medical Center's operating rooms were identified as patients in the first case involving health workers at a major hospital here.

All four infected nurses claimed not to have visited Itaewon or met people who visited the area, putting authorities on alert over the source of infection.

Gangnam Ward office said in a statement that investigators are looking into the link between one of the nurses and an acquaintance of hers who later tested positive. The two visited a bar near Seoul's Gangnam Station together on May 9 with four other people, according to the authorities.

Volunteer workers disinfect a street in Itaewon, a neighborhood in the central Seoul ward of Yongsan on May 12, 2020. (Yonhap)

Some 1,207 people have been tested in connection with the case and 124 placed under self-isolation, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in a press briefing, adding officials are monitoring the situation with "stricter" standards considering that the venue is a hospital.

Samsung Medical Center in Gangnam Ward is one of the country's biggest general hospitals, with a capacity of nearly 2,000 beds. Up to 9,700 outpatients are estimated to visit the hospital daily.

"The infection route of the first patient remains unclear. It is highly likely that (there may) be a 'silent spreader' as seen in the cluster infection at Itaewon clubs. We will closely manage the situation related to group infections at Samsung Medical Center," Park said.

South Korea's COVID-19 caseload reached 11,110, adding 32 cases from the previous day, according to the KCDC.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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