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(3rd LD) 3 COVID-19 cases reported among labor rally participants

All News 23:00 July 17, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with latest info throughout)

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- At least three protesters who took part in the latest massive rally organized by a major umbrella labor group have tested positive for COVID-19, health authorities said Saturday, sparking concerns about potential further infections amid spiking virus cases.

A woman in her 50s was confirmed Friday to be infected with the virus after attending the street rally held by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in central Seoul on July 3, and two more protesters tested positive Saturday.

Around 8,000 members of the KCTU participated in the rally to demand a revision to the labor act, despite authorities' repeated call to cancel it amid the pandemic.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum expressed "deep" regret over COVID-19 infections after the first patient was reported.

"Regardless of symptoms, we strongly call on all participants to immediately take COVID-19 tests," Kim said.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) issued an administrative order for all the protesters to take coronavirus tests.

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) march down the Jongno district during a rally in Seoul on July 3, 2021. (Yonhap)

Members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) march down the Jongno district during a rally in Seoul on July 3, 2021. (Yonhap)

The case sounds the alarm for potential further infections as the country is grappling with the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Spiking virus cases and the fast spread of the highly contagious delta variant have posed a challenge to the country's virus fight.

South Korea added 1,455 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, marking the 11th straight day of new daily cases topping 1,000. It set a record high for daily cases Wednesday with 1,615.

The KCTU has yet to release its official response to the latest infection cases.

The rally defied bans that had been placed by the Seoul metropolitan government and police to stem the recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Most of the demonstrators wore masks, but they stayed close to one another during the rally. Police have been investigating possible quarantine violations by the protesters.

In August last year, the country was gripped by the second wave of the pandemic in connection with a church in northern Seoul and a massive anti-government rally. COVID-19 cases traced to the Aug. 15 rally reached 650.

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