Epidemiologists say that the cluster infection case linked to clubs in Itaewon, Seoul was expected when South Korea hastily lifted executive orders on high-risk facilities last Wednesday as it entered a new phase dubbed “distancing in daily life.”
The South Korean government officially allowed last Wednesday the reopening of facilities that have a high risk of large-scale infection such as nightlife venues, places of worship and indoor sports centers. Meanwhile, the central government allowed local authorities to issue executive orders if necessary based on factors including the spread of COVID-19.
“The new guidelines lack a detailed risk assessment of different facilities,” said Kim U-ju, professor of infectious diseases for Korea University Guro Hospital. “The government should have classified every facility into at least three groups according to the risks they present, by easing restrictions in phases starting with low risk facilities.”
“Everyone knew nightlife venues would be a hotbed of coronavirus,” said Lee Jae-gap, professor of infectious diseases for Hallym University Medical Center. “It proves that community infections have not decreased yet.”
Experts emphasized that it is not too late to limit the use of high risk facilities or manage them more carefully. Um Jung-sik, professor of infectious diseases for Gachon University Gil Hospital, pointed out the need to impose restrictions on high-density facilities considering those who had been exposed to the virus in the clubs in Itaewon have spread the virus in communities by visiting other high-density areas. Choi Jae-uk, professor of preventive medicine in Korea University, argued that, in addition to publishing guidelines, the government needs to create an evaluation system where it checks if businesses abide by the guidelines and issues an executive order for violations.
Some argue for tighter control of foreigners. Concerns are rising over the “insidious spread” as the cluster of new infections was found in Itaewon, which has a large foreigner population. “The government should find a way to secure contact details of foreigners as it does for airport screening,” said Prof. Choi. “A friend’s contact details could be requested given that not all foreign residents have a Korean phone number.”
email@example.com · firstname.lastname@example.org