S. Korea combs through digital data to trace coronavirus cluster
SEOUL South Korean authorities were combing through mobile phone data, credit card statements and studying close-circuit television footage yesterday to identify people who visited nightclubs at the centre of one of the capital's biggest coronavirus clusters.
More than 100 new cases linked to the nightclubs have brought fears of a second wave of infections in a country held up as a coronavirus mitigation success story.
Health authorities have tracked and tested thousands of people linked to the nightclubs and bars in Seoul's Itaewon nightlife neighbourhood, but want to find others who they have not been able to identify.
The authorities fear that the fact some of the establishments were known as gay bars might be putting people off coming forward for testing in a conservative country where homosexuality is still taboo.
"We are using telecom station information and credit card transactions from the nightclubs to identify 1,982 of those who are not available," Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday said at least 102 people have tested positive in connection with the cases linked to nightclubs and bars.
Seoul mayor Park Won-soon said 7,272 people had been tested in connection with the cluster, including family members or coworkers of clubgoers.
The officials identified 10,905 people who were in the Itaewon area when the cluster of cases is believed to have got going this month, based on cell tower information, and another 494 who used credit cards, Mr Park said.
Media outlets have identified the nightclubs that the first patient visited as gay clubs, sparking concern that the disclosures will lead to discrimination.Given the sensitivity, the authorities have introduced "anonymous testing", with people needing to provide only a phone number and not a name.
Mr Park said the number of people getting tested has doubled as a result.
Officials reported 27 new infections across the country as of Monday. In all, South Korea has had 10,936 cases and 258 deaths. - REUTERS