• Seoul's bars and nightclubs remain closed after a lone patron with COVID-19 infected at least 24 people in the country's newest outbreak
  • The city government is contact tracing more than 1,500 people present at the clubs this man visited
  • KCDC urged visitors to those clubs to self-isolate

The Seoul Metropolitan government has shut down all bars and nightclubs in the Itaewon district, a popular tourist spot in Seoul with a large population of foreigners, after a single South Korean man triggered a new COVID-19 outbreak in a bar-hopping spree May 1 and 2.

At least 24 out of the South Korea's total of 34 new coronavirus infections reported Sunday is linked to this lone superspreader. The 34 infected people is the highest daily tally since 39 new cases April 9.

Authorities identified this superspreader as a 29-year-old man who tested positive for the virus after visiting five nightclubs and bars in the Itaewon commercial district. They believe as many as 1,500 people were present when the man visited clubs such as King Club, Trunk Club and Club Queen on both days.

For now, at least 54 cases have been linked to the Itaewon outbreak. This number includes 43 nightclub patrons and another 11 people acquainted with the club goers.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said 13 more COVID-19 cases associated with this man were confirmed Friday, linked to a patient who visited clubs and bars in Seoul. Twelve of these 13 new cases are people who visited night clubs at Itaewon clubs.

KCDC said the number will rise, and added 14 of this superspreader's contacts, including three foreign nationals and one officer of the Republic of Korea Army, have tested positive for COVID-19.

KCDC urged visitors to those clubs to self-isolate to limit the spread of the virus. They've also been asked to report to the authorities if they show COVID-19 symptoms.

"It is highly likely that there are more cases down the road," said Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip.

"May 2 was when the social distancing campaign was in effect and an administrative order on quarantine measures was valid for nightlife establishments in operation," said Kim, according to The Korea Times. "We will see if additional measures, such as administrative orders, are necessary."

The Seoul Metropolitan government will convene an emergency meeting with mayors and governors where they will review administrative orders for clubs and other establishments.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon later said 11 of the 13 patients are Seoul residents. The other two were based in nearby Gyeonggi Province. Seoul government officials said they are tracking down visitors at the clubs using CCTV footage and credit card transactions.

In response to the new outbreak, Seoul closed bars and nightclubs this weekend as authorities fought to contain the latest outbreak.

People wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in Seoul on May 6
People wearing face masks walk through an underground shopping area in Seoul on May 6 AFP / Jung Yeon-je