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S. Korea closes bars after coronavirus cases rise

May 10, 2020

Seoul has once again closed down its bars and nightclubs after an increase in coronavirus infections was linked back to the South Korean capital’s entertainment district. Most new cases have been traced back to one man.

A list of precautions is posted at the entrance of a club in Seoul
Image: Reuters/Yonhap News Agency

South Korea ordered all bars and clubs in the capital city of Seoul to close after dozens of new coronavirus infections were traced back to one man's night out last weekend. 

The Asian country on Sunday reported 34 new cases of the coronavirus, the first time in a month that the national daily increase has risen over 30. South Korea has registered 10,874 cases of COVID-19, resulting in 256 deaths. 

Most of the new cases have been linked to nightclubs in Itaewon, a Seoul neighborhood known for its nightlife. A 29-year-old man tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting several clubs and bars there last weekend.

Read more: Vietnamese woman sues Seoul for 'wartime massacre'

"Carelessness can lead to an explosion in infections," said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. 

The mayor on Saturday ordered over 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars, and discos to close indefinitely with immediate effect. 

The governor of Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, followed suit on Sunday, ordering over 5,7000 entertainment facilities to close down for two weeks. 

'It's not over until it's over'

South Korea has been held up as a model for how to curb the spread of the deadly virus and life there had started returning to normal. On Wednesday, the government relaxed many social distancing rules. 

But authorities estimate that around 7,200 people have visited the establishments frequented by the 29-year-old, and many fear that a second wave of infections could emerge. 

Read more: Coronavirus: How major sports are returning in South Korea

In response, South Korean Prime Minister Moon Jae-in urged people to remain calm and cautious. 

"The infection cluster, which recently occurred in entertainment facilities, has raised awareness that even during the stabilization phase, similar situations can arise again, anytime, anywhere in an enclosed, crowded space,'' Moon said.

"We must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention,'' he said, adding that South Korea had "the right quarantine and medical systems combined with experience to respond quickly to any unexpected infection clusters that might occur.'' 

"It's not over until it's over," Moon said. 

kp/mm (AFP, AP)

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