Isha feels like things are back to square one in South Korea. After an ease of the restrictions there was a rise in infections again, which led to the reverse of some of the relaxations. If you want to know more about Isha, click here to read her bio.
Press the play button and listen to how the last two weeks have been for Isha.
Current situation in South Korea 14-05-2020
A week ago South Korea eased restrictions and adapted to what they called ‘everyday life in quarantine’. However, last week there was a slight spike in numbers because of a patient who went clubbing in Itaewon. If you want to know more about this, you can read the article from last week.
Things have not improved, and the number of cases has been increasing to about 30 new cases per day. There are now more than 130 new cases linked to the cluster outbreak in Itaewon. Authorities now estimate that 7.200 people have visited the same places as the Itaewon patient. This has led to a fear of a second wave. Prime Minister Moon Jae-in said: “We must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention”, and “It’s not over until it’s over“. Because of the rise in infections authorities decided to push back the reopening of schools by one week. Clubs and night bars are also still closed.
Over 35.000 people that were linked to the recent outbreak got tested for COVID-19. The tests were free and anonymous. According to the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, everyone that visited clubs in Itaewon between the 24th of April and May 6 should get tested. If people do not adhere to this, they can get fined.
LGBTQ+ community fears testing
The strategy of South Korea to prevent the virus from spreading is to test, trace and contain. People who went clubbing had to write down their names before entering. Authorities are now trying to track these people down, but there is a problem. Itaewon is a district with nightclubs that are more welcome to people from the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the clubs the Itaewon patient visited are popular with gay men.
However, the country itself is still conservative when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance. That is why some people wrote down fake names, which makes tracking them down impossible. Some people are too afraid to respond when the authorities contact them. The situation has already led to homophobic comments on social media.
Foreign community in Itaewon
Itaewon is a multicultural part of Seoul and it also has a big expat community. Because of language barriers some foreigners feel excluded, says a Turkish student who also went clubbing in Itaewon. All the information and alerts that she receives are in Korean, even the result of her COVID-19 test. If people do not translate the messages they receive, they might not be aware that they should test after having gone to clubs in Itaewon.
Because Itaewon is known for its expat community, some employers wanted their foreign employees to get tested. Some people said it felt like discrimination, while others understood the worries of the companies they work for.
Ever heard of ‘colatheque’? If you’re curious, and want to know more about the clubbing scene in South Korea you can read this article.
If you want to know more about fears of a second COVID-19 wave, privacy concerns over the tracing of people, or the situation in North Korea, you can read or watch this interview with Kang Kyung-wha, the foreign minister of South Korea.