On the day South Korea allowed 2.37 million children to return to school on Wednesday (17 May), COVID-19 cases were reported in warehouses of an online commerce company, Coupang, in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province.
A sudden surge of 90 cases in just five days after the first case was reported on 23 May. The virus was detected on hats and shoes worn by some of the workers, and it suggested that the virus spread without direct contact.
The warehouse in Bucheon was closed down temporarily on Wednesday.
According to The Chosun Ilbo, another wave of infection was also recorded at a different Coupang warehouse in Goyang, north of Seoul. The total cases of the coronavirus were brought up to 39 in Incheon, 32 in Gyeonggi Province and 19 in Seoul.
With the detection of COVID-19 in a warehouse, the consumers were reported to feel nervous about being infected by touching the packaging materials delivered to their doorsteps.
However, Coupang responded that all workers wear masks and gloves and do not come into direct contact with the products that are being delivered. Kwon Jun-wook, the deputy chief of the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), mentioned that “there have not been any cases worldwide so far of infections caused by-products delivered over medium to long distances”.
The KCDC had also revealed that almost half of the 224 cases recorded in the past 10 days were detected in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.
Noting the sudden surges of the coronavirus infection in the warehouses, it prompted the South Korean government to re-enforce certain lockdown measures in Seoul, starting from Thursday (28 May) to 14 June.
Therefore, the Government decided to close private institutions, karaoke parlours, bars, museums, parks and other public facilities once again for a temporary period of time. These closures occurred again after outdoor activities and gatherings were permitted back in April.
It had been reported that the aforementioned activities were permitted last month as long as people wore masks and maintained a safe distance from each other. And now with the rebound of the COVID-19 cases, lockdown measures were re-enforced urgently yesterday.
Park Neung-hoo, the Health and Welfare Minister expressed that the officials are “trying their best to track down potentially infected people”. However, he added that community transmissions had “probably occurred already” or “may be quietly occurring now”.
Mr Park also warned that if the nation failed to “quickly stem the spread of infections in the Seoul metropolitan region”, schools and students will be affected and they will not be able to return to classes.
The South Korean government officials were “weary” of another total lockdown almost immediately schools reopened and amid some signs of resurgent private spending that was boosted by the “disaster-relief”. The “disaster-relief” payments were handed out by the Government.
To prevent the nation from going into another round of COVID-19 battle, Mr Park urged the public to “refrain from going outside” for social gatherings for the coming two weeks. The people were also warned to avoid visiting restaurants and bars where multiple infections were detected.