South Korea’s LGBTQ Community Facing Heat Over New Flare-Up in Cases Tied to Clubs

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  • A potential second wave of coronavirus infections could be possible in South Korea after confirmed cases suddenly increased after a lull, with a surge tied to nightclubs in Seoul.

    The total number of cases linked to nightclubs in Itaewon in Seoul, visited by a 29-year-old patient earlier this month, increased to 54 as of noon Sunday in Seoul, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Director-General Jung Eun-kyeong. Authorities are estimating between 6,000 to 7,000 could have been exposed to the virus from clubs between April 29 and May 6.

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Saturday ordered the closing of all nightclubs, discos, hostess bars and other similar nightlife establishments in the capital.

    Eleven of the 54 confirmed cases are secondary infections, Jung said. The infection rate is highest for those who visited King Club in Itaewon on May 2, she said, adding that more than 30% of the confirmed patients are asymptomatic.

    “Healthy teenagers and adults normally fully recover without showing much symptoms, but to senior citizens and those with underlying diseases, it can be fatal,” Jung told reporters on Sunday. “We’d like to remind everyone to think of the impact this can have on the people with weaker immune systems.”

    Gyeonggi Province, located in the outskirts of Seoul city, ordered those who visited certain clubs in Itaewon and Gangnam between April 29 and May 6 to self-isolate and avoid any person-to-person contact. Governor Lee Jae-myung also announced a ban on all “group meetings” at entertainment facilities, including clubs and karaoke bars.

    The sudden spike in cases sparked memories of an outbreak at a religious sect in late February, which sent daily infections in the nation to almost 1,000.

    South Korea, which in early March had the second-highest number of cases globally after China, has been able to control the virus spread without having to take severe measures such as imposing a lockdown or banning overseas travel. Instead, authorities have relied instead on a massive testing and tracing regime.

    South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun pledged to mobilize all available resources to contain a further spread of the virus. The country began easing its social distancing campaign and earlier this week announced that schools will start reopening May 13.

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