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(LEAD) Logistics center-linked virus cases spike, stoking concern over further domestic spread

Retail/Tourism 14:34 May 27, 2020

(ATTN: RECAST headline; UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Wednesday reported a continued rise in new coronavirus cases linked to a logistics center in a city west of Seoul, putting health authorities on alert over further community spread.

As of 9 a.m., at least 36 virus cases had been traced to the logistics center in Bucheon, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The first related case, confirmed Sunday, is believed to be linked to a cram school instructor in nearby Incheon, who contracted the virus after a visit to Seoul's nightlife area of Itaewon.

Concerns about community spread have mounted as at least 10 patients were confirmed in Incheon alone earlier in the day. In Seoul, eight cases have been reported.

This photo, taken on May 26, 2020, shows a logistics center of Coupang, the country's leading e-commerce operator, in Bucheon, west of Seoul, where a large number of COVID-19 cases were reported. (Yonhap)

Health authorities said they are conducting an epidemiological study into the cases, adding that workers at the facility operated by e-commerce leader Coupang did not appear to properly comply with quarantine measures.

The first confirmed patient continued to work despite having shown respiratory symptoms in mid-May, the KCDC said.

"If quarantine measures are not implemented at workplaces, there could be the dreadful result of mass infections," Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said in a briefing.

Health authorities are testing some 3,600 people linked to the logistics center. Coupang shut down the facility on Monday.

In another alarming case, Market Kurly, an online grocery delivery platform, said a temporary worker at its logistics center in eastern Seoul was infected with the virus.

The company said it has closed down the center and will proceed with disinfection work later in the day.

The KCDC said there is a low possibility that COVID-19 spread through the transportation of packages from the logistics center. But consumers' anxiety is growing as more Koreans have used online shopping during the pandemic.

South Korea has raised its guard against cluster infections amid a steady rise in Itaewon-linked infections. Health authorities remained skittish over the impacts of phased school reopenings on efforts to contain the virus.

The country reported 40 new cases, including 37 local infections, Wednesday, raising the total caseload to 11,265.

Health workers conduct a coronavirus test on a citizen at an outdoor testing center in Bucheon, west of Seoul on May 27, 2020 as the country reported a steady rise in logistics center-tied cases. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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