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(LEAD) Club-connected infections continue amid rising cases with unknown links

All News 11:07 May 25, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES lead, 1st photo; ADDS more info in paras 2-3, 6-7, 10-12, 2nd photo)

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korean health officials are trying to break the chain of transmission tied to cluster infections in Seoul's nightlife district of Itaewon as the country grapples with sporadic outbreaks across the country.

The 16 new cases, including 13 local infections, raised South Korea's total coronavirus caseload to 11,206, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The daily increase in virus cases dropped below 20 after hovering around the threshold for the past three days.

Health workers explain virus tests to a citizen at a public medical center in Gangseo District, western Seoul, on May 25, 2020. (Yonhap)

Itaewon has emerged as a new hotbed for COVID-19 after a 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus on May 6 following his visits to clubs and bars in Itaewon.

More than 200 cases have been linked to Itaewon clubs, though health authorities believe the cluster is under control and has not evolved into uncontrollable, explosive infections.

However, health authorities are on alert over undetected transmission routes that could lead to the further spread of the virus as they continued to see secondary and tertiary infections linked to the Itaewon outbreak in recent weeks.

The country also remains vigilant ahead of the further reopening of schools this week following the return of high school seniors last week after a nearly three-month suspension.

The country reported one more virus fatality, raising the death toll to 267.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 10,226, up 13 from the previous day, according to the KCDC, with 713 patients currently under treatment.

A military medical official disinfects a classroom at an elementary school in Paju, north of Seoul, on May 25, 2020. (Yonhap)

Despite the sporadic transmissions detected nationwide in connection with the Itaewon cluster, the government said it has yet to consider reverting to stricter social distancing, adding that the country's quarantine capabilities remain sufficient enough to handle the control and treatment of the virus.

However, to prevent the further spread of the virus, some municipal governments have issued administrative orders banning gatherings at entertainment establishments, which has de facto forced club and bar owners to suspend business.

Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province also have issued orders on coin-operated karaoke rooms, or "noraebang" in Korean, after health authorities identified virus infections there.


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