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South Korea advises clubs to close, may delay schools

/ 06:38 PM May 08, 2020

Boxes containing masks are loaded onto a South Korea Air Force cargo plane at the Gimhae airbase in Busan, South Korea, Friday, May 8, 2020. Military aircraft will be used to transport 500,000 masks intended for U.S. veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War as South Korea expands efforts to help other countries deal with the coronavirus while its own outbreak slows. (Son Hyung-joo/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL — South Korea on Friday advised nightclubs and hostess bars to close for a month and may delay the reopening of schools after linking more than a dozen new coronavirus infections to a club patron in the capital.

Schools were supposed to begin reopening next week, but the fears of a resurgence came after Friday’s disclosure of 25 new cases, South Korea’s first jump above 10 in five days.

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“At this moment, it’s too early to say whether we need to postpone the opening of schools, but we will monitor the spread of the virus and review information” from investigations of the new cases, said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fewer cases in previous weeks had allowed officials to relax social distancing guidelines and schedule a phased reopening of schools, starting with high school seniors returning next Wednesday.

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The government advised nightclubs, hostess bars and similar venues around the country to close for a month after officials detected at least 15 infections linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district on Saturday before testing positive on Wednesday.

Jeong said the man did not wear a mask inside the clubs and that the number of infections will likely rise as health workers trace and test contacts. The clubs’ visitor lists show they received more than 1,500 customers combined on Saturday.

The central government’s advisory doesn’t require clubs to close, but if they become a source of infections after failing to enforce anti-virus measures they could be shut down.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the new cases included three foreigners and a soldier.

“A drop of ink in clear water spreads swiftly,” Kim said during a briefing, urging vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus. “Anyone can become that drop of ink that spreads COVID-19.”

South Korea has reported more than 10,800 cases and 256 deaths from the virus.

Its professional soccer league began its new season on Friday without fans in the stands, following Tuesday’s baseball openers. Earlier this week, troops were allowed to resume leaves after two months of restrictions.

Health officials urged people to reconsider visiting their elderly parents on Friday, which is national parents’ day.

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