Itae­won virus out­break deep­ens gen­er­a­tional rift

Anger at young peo­ple swells af­ter in­fec­tions at clubs

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Jun Ji-hye jjh@ko­re­

Young peo­ple have be­come the tar­get of crit­i­cism, es­pe­cially from the older gen­er­a­tion, amid spo­radic group in­fec­tions of COVID-19 linked to en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties such as night­clubs and bars.

The new wave of in­fec­tions here be­gan af­ter a 29-year-old Korean pa­tient tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus, May 6, af­ter vis­it­ing five night­clubs and bars in Itae­won from the night of May 1 to the early hours of May 2.

Since then, the con­ta­gious dis­ease has spread across the na­tion to more than 200 peo­ple, mostly in their 20s.

The new in­fec­tions, which came af­ter the spread of the coro­n­avirus in Korea was show­ing clear signs of a slow­down, has pro­voked crit­i­cism of the young gen­er­a­tion in on­line com­mu­ni­ties.

In par­tic­u­lar, mid­dle-aged peo­ple who are car­ing for young chil­dren or ag­ing par­ents claimed that the young peo­ple showed an “easy­go­ing at­ti­tude” amid the pub­lic health cri­sis.

It has been known world­wide that the el­derly are more vul­ner­a­ble to COVID-19 than young peo­ple, and their like­li­hood of death from the dis­ease is higher.

Anger against young peo­ple con­tin­ued to swell fol­low­ing an an­nounce­ment by the city govern­ment of Anyang in Gyeonggi Prov­ince, Fri­day, that it is go­ing all out to con­duct coro­n­avirus tests on over 1,000 cit­i­zens who re­ported to the health au­thor­i­ties that they had vis­ited a bar near Anyang Sta­tion which was vis­ited by COVID-19 pa­tients mul­ti­ple times. So far, at least seven in­fec­tions have been con­nected to the bar, ac­cord­ing to the city govern­ment.

“Many cit­i­zens here have tried to stay in­doors as much as they can in a bid to join the govern­ment ef­forts to con­tain the spread of the virus, and the coun­try was about to see the fruit of those ef­forts un­til in­fec­tions linked to the Itae­won night­clubs emerged,” said Ahn Jin-hwan, 45, who lives in Gyeonggi Prov­ince. “I think the in­ci­dent shows that young peo­ple lack con­sid­er­a­tion for oth­ers.”

The Korea Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion (KCDC) said, also Fri­day, it had de­tected 20 more cases of the new coro­n­avirus the pre­vi­ous day, rais­ing the na­tion’s to­tal to 11,142. The death toll re­mained un­changed at 264.

Fol­low­ing the con­tin­u­ous spread of the virus tied to the en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties, the health au­thor­i­ties de­cided to add night­clubs, singing rooms (known as no­rae­bang in Korean) and “hunt­ing pubs,” among oth­ers, to a high­risk group that is re­quired to fol­low ex­tra-strict dis­ease con­trol guide­lines.

“Hunt­ing pubs” refers to places in which peo­ple can go on blind dates while drink­ing.

“There have been opin­ions that the govern­ment’s dis­tanc­ing-in-daily-life scheme did not con­sider the char­ac­ter­is­tics of fa­cil­i­ties with a high risk of in­fec­tions,” Vice Health Min­is­ter Kim Gang-lip said dur­ing a brief­ing.

Mean­while, the pros­e­cu­tion be­gan its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, also Fri­day, in earnest into the Shin­cheonji Church of Je­sus, a mi­nor re­li­gious sect which was at the heart of a surge in coro­n­avirus cases here, car­ry­ing out search-and-seize op­er­a­tions at the church’s branches and fa­cil­i­ties across the na­tion.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion comes af­ter a civic group filed a com­plaint with the pros­e­cu­tion in Fe­bru­ary against Shin­cheonji founder Lee Man-hee for al­legedly hin­der­ing state ef­forts to con­tain COVID-19 in the early stages of the pan­demic.

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