Super-spreader fear becomes reality in wake of 'golden holiday'

Shim Hyun-tai  Published 2020.05.08  15:43  Updated 2020.05.09 16:42


A man in his 20s, codenamed patient No. 66 of Yongin after his residential town, has tested positive for the coronavirus and affected at least 13 so far amid eased restrictions during the “golden holiday.”

The man visited five clubs in Itaewon, Seoul, over the long holiday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Twelve out of the 13 infected had contacts with the man at these clubs. The KCDC estimated a combined total of at least 1,500 people might have visited these clubs, and there will be more confirmed cases among them.

The appearance of a potential super-spreader could lead to public calls for returning to a stringent social distancing, observers said. The heal authorities told the visitors to these clubs to isolate themselves and report immediately if they show Covid-19 symptoms.

One of the 13 infected people was a 31-year-old coworker of the patient.

Yongin City officials have identified 58 people have made contracts with the 20-something man, through epidemiological investigations. Forty-four of them were the employees of an information technology company where the patient worked. The company voluntarily shut down the entire 17-story building on Thursday, making about 800 employees work from home.

Medical experts called for the health authorities to apply more strict standards to nightlife establishments, such as clubs and bars, which have a high risk of cluster infections even if the nation maintains the current relaxed restrictions.

As of midnight Thursday, meanwhile, Korea saw 12 more Covid-19 cases, raising the total to 10,822. Eleven of them were imported cases, and one was a community infection. The nation had continued to report less than 20 new virus cases for three weeks since April 18, had it not been for the new super-spreader.

The death toll remained at 256, and the fatality rate, 2.37 percent. Hospitals have discharged 65 recovered patients, pushing up the total of cured patients to 9,484.

Aside from quarantine activities, the health authorities are stepping up efforts to develop vaccines and treatments by, for instance, collecting plasma and announcing support plans for private developers.

Currently, Korea is conducting clinical trials of seven drug candidates, all of which in the form of repositioning the existing drugs for Covid-19 treatment, to release them to market as early as the end of this year.

Three candidate substances for vaccines are also to begin clinical trials this year to hit the market during the second half of next year.

Unlike the diplomatic chill between Korea and Japan, the two countries’ airlines are cooperating closely to withdraw their citizens from third countries with high risks.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 119 Koreans left Tanzania and arrived in Korea later in the day aboard a chartered flight of Qatar Airlines. Also onboard the plane were 24 Japanese, 31 Canadians, 13 Britons, and two Chinese. The passengers landed in Doha and transferred to their respective final destinations.

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