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(LEAD) Club-linked virus cases still on rise ahead of further school reopenings

All News 10:58 May 26, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; ADDS more info in paras 2, 9-14, 2nd photo)

SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's virus fight appears to be dragging on as sporadic outbreaks tied to a cluster infection in Seoul's nightlife district of Itaewon continued ahead of another phase of school reopenings.

The 19 new cases, with 16 being local infections, raised South Korea's total coronavirus caseload to 11,225, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The daily increase in new virus cases stayed below 20 for the second day after hovering around the threshold for three days.

Health workers speak to citizens waiting in line for virus tests at a public medical center in Gangseo Ward, western Seoul, on May 26, 2020, one day after a kindergarten student in the district tested postive for the novel coronavirus. (Yonhap)

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

More than 230 cases have been linked to Itaewon clubs as health authorities strive to break the chain of transmission.

One recent case involved six stages of transmission traced to a patient in Incheon, who lied about visiting Itaewon and infected students he taught at a cram school.

The country reported two more additional virus fatalities, raising the death toll to 269.

The total number of people released from quarantine after making full recoveries stood at 10,275, up 49 from the previous day, according to the KCDC, with 681 patients currently under treatment.

People wearing masks board a bus in Seoul on May 26, 2020. Health authorities said all bus, taxi and airplane passengers are required to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 infection. (Yonhap)

Despite the sporadic transmissions detected nationwide in connection with the Itaewon cluster, health authorities said they are not considering rolling back stricter social distancing as the country's quarantine capabilities remain sufficient to handle the recent virus situation.

But health authorities are staying vigilant over the further reopening of schools as an estimated 2.37 million students are to return to their classes Wednesday.

Last week, about 440,000 high school seniors returned to school after more than two months of delay due to the pandemic.

To prevent the further spread of the virus, the government has required all people to wear masks when using buses and taxis. Those who do not wear masks may not be allowed to board buses and taxis.

Mandatory mask use will be also applied to air passengers starting Wednesday, regardless of their flights.

Some municipal governments have issued an administrative order banning gatherings at entertainment establishments with high infection risks, such as clubs and bars, as recent cases stemmed from those facilities.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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