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S. Korea reports spike in coronavirus cases after new outbreak

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40 more cases reported as new cluster emerges in logistics facility in Seoul

SEOUL: South Korea reported the highest daily number of new cases in 49 days yesterday, as one of its largest e-commerce companies battled an outbreak linked to a now-shuttered logistics facility.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 40 new cases as of midnight Tuesday, bringing the country's total number to 11,265. A day earlier the country had recorded 19 new cases.

So far, at least 36 cases have been linked to an outbreak at the logistics centre operated by SoftBank-backed e-commerce firm Coupang in Bucheon, west of Seoul, the KCDC said.

About 3,600 people at the facility are being tested.

The company said it closed the centre on Monday and began the strongest disinfection measures recommended by authorities.

The logistics centre opened in early March and is in charge of deliveries to western Seoul, a spokesman said.

The first case related to the centre was diagnosed on Saturday, and is suspected to be connected with a Seoul nightclub outbreak earlier this month.

Health officials warned that cases linked to the centre could rise. "We are very nervous about community infections and we are keeping a close eye on the situation," Vice-Health Minister Kim Kang-lip said at a briefing.

Authorities suspect the logistics centre did not comply with "basic" quarantine principles, adding that an investigation is under way.

A spokesman for Coupang said the centre went through daily disinfection and all employees wore masks and gloves and had temperatures checked.

Despite the spike in new cases, more than two million children returned to class yesterday, the latest in a phased opening of schools.

"What we are worried about now is that when kids go to school, they're naturally physically close to their friends and they have to eat together so they may be infected with coronavirus," said Mr Chan Woong-jeon, the father of a second grader who returned to Seryun Elementary School in Seoul yesterday.

In South-east Asia, Malaysia yesterday defended itself against criticism that it has been treating foreign workers badly during the pandemic.

Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said: "Foreigners with valid work permits are protected. For example, those working in the estates are given housing. Those in other sectors get all kinds of benefits from employers."

But he noted that the authorities had to take action against foreign workers who had entered the country illegally or were working without valid documents.

Malaysia yesterday reported 15 new cases, raising its total to 7,619 cases. - REUTERS, THE STAR

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