Strengthened anti-epidemic measures taken in metropolitan area

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : May 28, 2020, 17:35 | Updated : May 28, 2020, 17:35

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- Alarmed by a quick spike in the number of coronavirus patients in a cluster infection at a logistics center run by Coupang, a major online shopping operator, South Korea announced a two-week period of strengthened anti-epidemic measures and social distancing in the densely populated metropolitan area to prevent a new wave of COVID-19.

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said that the government will strengthen quarantine control in all sectors of the Seoul metropolitan area for about two weeks from May 29. All public and multi-use facilities in Seoul and its surrounding province will be shut down until June 14, he said, urging citizens and students to stop visiting crowded and vulnerable facilities such as bars, karaoke bars and PC gaming cafes.

"There is a concern about a chain of infections in the metropolitan area," Park said in a televised statement on Thursday, warning South Korea may have to tightly restrict economic and other daily activities again unless it stops the spread of community infections under control.

Park's warning came after health officials detected 82 cases originating from Coupang's distribution center in Bucheon, the western satellite city of Seoul. More than 4,000 people were ordered to get tested for COVID-19.

"I would like to ask for your cooperation. For about two weeks until June 14, please refrain from going out, meetings and events, and especially refrain from using multi-use facilities," Park said, citing COVID-19 cases of unknown origin in Bucheon and other places. He called for a flexible work system such as teleworking.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Coupang's logistics center may have not followed basic quarantine guidelines at its cafeteria and resting rooms. "Traces of the COVID-19 virus were detected from hats and shoes worn by workers," said KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook. Health officials plan to inspect other logistics centers.

Health officials have achieved a certain degree of success in their battle to contain the spread of COVID-19 from an international tourist hotspot in Seoul to other areas since the first patient was detected on May 6. However, health officials have struggled with sporadic cases every day.

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