SEOUL — South Korea’s capital has shut down more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos after dozens of coronavirus infections were linked to club goers who went out last weekend as the country relaxed social distancing guidelines.
The measures imposed on Saturday by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon came after the national government urged entertainment venues around the nation to close or otherwise enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees to wear masks.
Park said the entry bans on the facilities will be maintained until the city concludes that risks of infection have been meaningfully lowered.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or KCDC, said earlier in the day that 18 new cases were reported in the 24 hours to midnight Friday, all but one of them linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district last Saturday before testing positive days later.
But Park said 16 more cases were confirmed in Seoul alone in the following hours. He said this brought the total number of infections linked to club goers to 40 — 27 in Seoul, 12 in neighboring Incheon and Gyeonggi and one in the southern port city of Busan.
The KCDC, which compiles data from local governments, couldn’t immediately confirm Park’s numbers. But senior KCDC official Kwon Joon-wook raised concerns that the club goers could possibly spread “secondary infections from wherever they live.”
The number of infections could grow as health workers are scrambling to trace contacts of club goers. Park said health workers have been attempting to contact some 1,940 people who were listed as visitors to the three Itaewon clubs and other venues nearby, but they have so far been able to reach only 637 of them.
South Korea has confirmed at least 10,840 cases of the coronavirus, including 256 deaths.
Fewer cases in previous weeks had allowed for social distancing guidelines to be relaxed and a phased reopening of schools.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
KIM WRITES PUTIN: North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II and wishing Russia success in fighting its coronavirus outbreak. Kim had previously sent a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping praising what he described as China’s success in getting its COVID-19 epidemic under control. Some experts say the North could intensify its diplomatic outreach to neighbors, particularly China, as it seeks economic help after closing its border for months to fend off the virus.