New Cluster Infections in South Korea Reveal Dangers in Reopening Economies

New Cluster Infections in South Korea Reveal Dangers in Reopening Economies
Photo Credit: AP/TPG Images
What you need to know

The nightclub outbreak in Seoul shows that successes containing Covid-19 remain liable to setback.

Resuming social activities is threatening to undo some of the early efforts in curbing Covid-19 infections.

South Korea reported a cluster of infections on May 8, mostly linked to clubgoers in Itaewon, a multicultural neighborhood in Seoul. The spike in locally transmitted cases broke the month-long streak of keeping daily cases below 30.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered nightclubs and bars to shut down as a precaution against additional outbreaks.

Striking a balance between maintaining public health and reopening economies has proven to be a dilemma even for a country like South Korea, which has been widely praised for its prevention efforts.

In a special address marking his third year in office, President Moon Jae-in asked the nation to stay alert regarding epidemic prevention.

“We’re in a prolonged war. I ask everyone to comply with safety precautions and rules until the situation is over,” Moon said. He made note of the fragility of “the international community’s solidarity and cooperation,” reminding Koreans to band together in a time of crisis.

South Korea has confirmed nearly 11,000 cases and reported 256 deaths. The country has adopted impressive testing and contact-tracing policies to control the infection rates, but the nightclub outbreak may call for a renewal of strict social distancing.

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Photo Credit:CNA
Fans in attendance at a Chinese Professional Baseball League Game, May 10, 2020.

Like South Korea, Taiwan has avoided widespread lockdowns while keeping a functional economy. Aside from a small infection cluster among its navy last month, the country has so far recorded almost zero locally transmitted cases since April 14.

Nightclubs have slowly re-opened in Taiwan with more outdoor and rooftop venues attracting weekend crowds. However, tourism is restricted to domestic travel and the government may keep the borders shut until a vaccine is found.

Hong Kong and Singapore have also been free of local cases for over two weeks. Meanwhile, in China, Disneyland has reopened in Shanghai with human-traffic control measures. Wuhan, the first epicenter of the outbreak, has recorded a surge in new cases in the past week.

In Europe, countries are easing lockdown measures amid quarantine fatigue despite high infection rates.

Germany, for example, has seen rising numbers of infections shortly after the country eased its restrictions.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also encouraged people to go back to work without much detail on implementation. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have ignored Johnson’s message and extended their lockdowns until May 28. The United Kingdom has reported over 215,000 cases and over 30,000 deaths, the second-highest in the world.

Much of the world is struggling to keep its economies afloat while avoiding further overloading the medical system. Until a vaccine is discovered, governments have to co-exist with the coronavirus since easing restrictions may jeopardize hard-earned gains.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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