|A street in Hongdae, one of the busiest entertainment districts in Seoul, is crowded with people after the government eased social distancing rules imposed to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, in this Oct. 12 photo. Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Concerns are growing again over possible mass COVID-19 infections in Korea as young people have started socializing more often in night clubs and other entertainment establishments amid the easing of social distancing rules, according to medical experts Friday.
They pointed out that people in their 20s and 30s seemed to be displaying a more laid-back attitude regarding compliance with quarantine rules as many of them have begun to fill bars and clubs in nightlife districts in the Seoul metropolitan area such as Itaewon and Hongdae.
According to the Central Disease Control Headquarters, a group infection was recently confirmed at a pub in Incheon, west of Seoul. After the first confirmed cases Wednesday, 12 additional cases were reported through contact tracing. The person who appears to be the source of the infection cluster works at the bar, and eight patrons, along with four family members have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.
There was also an infection cluster connected to gatherings during the Chuseok holiday. The infection seems to have spread at a family gathering to celebrate Chuseok, but a member of this family then attended a pub in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, Oct. 3 and Oct. 9, a pub in Gangnam, Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, and a pub in Ansan, Wednesday.
"The more confirmed cases among people in their 20s, the more virus infections take place in local communities. These are eventually linked to cases in high-risk facilities such as hospitals," said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease professor at Korea University Guro Hospital.
As of Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 patients in Korea by age group shows the largest number of people confirmed to have the virus to be those in their 20s with 19.83 percent of confirmed cases at 4,955; followed by 4,588, or 18.36 percent of cases to be people in their 50s; and 3,983, or 15.94 percent in their 60s.
However, in the case of people in their 20s, there have been no deaths. Even when infected, most showed mild symptoms and recovered in a relatively short period.
While it's true that younger people are less likely to die from the illness, experts said they still need to heed the calls for social distancing, as not only are they risking their own health, they could be a major factor driving transmission rates.
In the case of people in their 20s, the wide range of economic activities they take part in can lead to them spreading the virus in their local communities.
"We can ease the social distancing level, but we need to be alert about outbreaks such as the Itaewon club infection after the golden holiday in May," Kim said.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, the nation added 47 infections on Thursday, including 41 domestic cases, raising the total caseload to 25,035. Two additional deaths were reported, pushing the country's death toll to 441 with a fatality rate of 1.76 percent.
This is the first time since Sept. 29 that the daily tally of COVID-19 has dropped below the 50 mark. Among the 41 local infections, 36 were in the greater Seoul area ― 17 detected in Seoul, 14 in Gyeonggi Province, and four in Incheon.