Despite receiving praise for the way it successfully handled the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea has now experienced a hiccup after 101 new cases were confirmed in Seoul, just less than two weeks after reporting no new cases and easing lockdown restrictions.
According to BBC, 101 new cases have now tested positive for COVID-19 following a cluster of outbreaks in a nightclub district in the capital city of Seoul.
On April 30, we reported on South Korea’s successful strategy that led to an early easing of lockdown restrictions. However, as experts have predicted it would, returning to the “new normal” has resulted in a “second-wave” of infections, indicating that the “gamble” has not paid off, even in the best-performing country with regards to effective response to the coronavirus.
Furthermore, the story gets uglier with regards to the privacy issue that has emerged from the latest cluster of outbreaks. Patrons of the clubs were required to provide their names and phone numbers in order to gain entry into the nightclub so that Korea could keep up with its program that traces the virus back to its source and contain it.
The gathering in question was organised by the LGBT community in Seoul and, in a country that is very conservative, “coming out” can have disastrous consequences for family relationships and even one’s job. A Catholic-run publication even published a story referring to the outbreak emerging from “gay nightclubs”, a term which healthcare officials wanted to avoid. In anticipation of this conservative backlash, many of the names and numbers provided on the list were false.
However, cell phone numbers were collected from cellphone towers, as well as credit card details from purchases as over 8,500 police attempt to track down 11,000 people that were in the region. Texts were sent out to everyone that was in the area, urging them to take free tests. So far 7,000 have come forward.
So, from this story, we are led to two conclusions. Firstly, easing lockdown restrictions can and will lead to a second wave of infections and, secondly, that there is a clear threat of privacy breaches coming out of the measures that will be taken to contain the new cases to come.