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(LEAD) Lotteria case raises alert over additional infections in greater Seoul area

National 12:25 August 13, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS quote, details in paras 5, 8)

SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- A new cluster infection traced to a meeting of managers at fast-food franchise Lotteria has sparked fresh concerns over the new coronavirus further spreading in Seoul and surrounding areas.

At least 11 employees who attended a meeting at a Lotteria franchise in the eastern Seoul ward of Gwangjin on Aug. 6 have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. Eight of them were Seoul residents.

The meeting of 19 employees took place at the fast-food franchise's Gunja Station branch before participants had dinner at two restaurants in the area.

"We have tested 53 people who have so far been identified as having been in contact (with the infected patients), with 22 testing negative and others undergoing screening," Park Yu-mi, who leads the Seoul city government's public health unit, said in a press conference on Thursday morning.

Park said that since the attendees were manager-level employees, some of them did not directly interact with customers, adding that no additional infection has been identified at branches where the manager tested positive.

Eight Lotteria branches, including those near Jonggak, Seoul Station and Lotte Department Store in central Seoul, have been affected by the latest infections, according to the city government.

The fact that the infection broke out among employees working at fast-food branches, where customers usually take off their masks and sit close together, has heightened concerns over additional infections among employees and visitors.

On Wednesday, an official at the Central Disease Control Headquarters also said that the attendees did not wear masks, though they met for a long time, fanning concerns over the virus spreading.

Park said health authorities have sent text messages to those who visited the affected venues to be tested when showing symptoms.

On Thursday, South Korea identified 56 new virus cases, including 47 local infections, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The figure, which excludes infections that were identified after midnight, marked the second straight day in which daily cases hovered above 50 following 54 cases on Wednesday.

A majority of the new locally transmitted cases was reported in the greater Seoul area, including 25 in Seoul and 16 in Gyeonggi Province, according to the KCDC.

Pedestrians stand in front of a Lotteria franchise in the eastern Seoul ward of Gwangjin, which was temporarily closed on Aug. 12, 2020, due to new coronavirus concerns. (Yonhap)
Notice signs show that a Lotteria franchise in the eastern Seoul ward of Gwangjin has been temporarily closed on Aug. 12, 2020, due to new coronavirus concerns. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
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