Fears of second wave go up a notch in S. Korea and China, Latest World News - The New Paper

Fears of second wave go up a notch in S. Korea and China

This article is more than 12 months old

Both countries reported highest number of new cases in more than a month

SEOUL : Fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections went up a notch in both China and Korea yesterday.

South Korea reported 35 new infections yesterday, the second consecutive day of new cases of that magnitude and the highest numbers in more than a month.

And China reported a new cluster of five infected people in Wuhan yesterday after a month without fresh infections there.

Yesterday, Korean officials scrambled to contain the outbreak, searching for thousands of people who may have been infected in a cluster of cases linked to nightclubs and bars in densely populated Seoul.

South Korea has been lauded for its quick action on the pandemic, significantly reducing the rate of new infections in recent weeks, but a resurgence in case numbers has raised concerns the country could be hit by a second wave of the outbreak.

Twenty-nine of the new cases were linked to an outbreak at a number of Seoul nightclubs and bars, many of them catering to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

That has raised complications for officials desperately trying to track those who might be infected in a nation where open homosexuality is often taboo and LGBTQ people still face discrimination, including job loss and hate speech.

The authorities have tested more than 2,450 people who had patronised the night spots in the Itaewon neighbourhood, but were still trying to track down around 3,000 more. Hundreds of other people who came into contact with clubgoers have also been tested.

"Our top priority is to minimise the spread of the infections in the greater Seoul area," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting with officials yesterday, calling on local governments to work with police to track down patrons.

"We should quickly find and test them, and speed is key."

The 69 cases reported by the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) over 48 hours were equivalent to the number of cases it recorded over the entire previous week.

But KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said that while the outbreak was worrisome, it was not appropriate to call it a second wave just yet. "The epidemic is ongoing," she said.

In China, after a month without fresh infections in Wuhan, five new cases were confirmed in a residential district.

Local authorities said all new cases were from the same residential compound, mostly older people, and an official from the affected district has been dismissed for "insufficient" virus containment efforts. The total number infected in China is around 83,000, with more than 4,600 dead.- REUTERS, AFP