SEOUL • South Korea reported the highest daily number of new coronavirus cases in 49 days yesterday, as one of the country’s largest e-commerce companies battled an outbreak linked to a now-shuttered logistics facility.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 40 new cases as of midnight on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total number past 11,260. A day earlier, it recorded 19 new cases.
So far, at least 36 cases have been linked to an outbreak at the logistics centre operated by SoftBank-backed e-commerce firm Coupang Corp in Bucheon, west of Seoul, the KCDC said. It was not immediately clear how many of the cases were reported in the last 24 hours.
About 3,600 people at the facility are being tested. The firm said it closed the centre on Monday and began the strongest disinfection measures recommended by the authorities.
Coupang benefited from the contactless trend driven by Covid-19 in South Korea, with orders surging for groceries and other products. The logistics centre opened in early March and is in charge of deliveries to western Seoul, a spokesman said.
The first case related to the centre was diagnosed on Saturday, and is suspected to be connected with a Seoul nightclub outbreak earlier this month.
Health officials warned that cases linked to the centre could rise.
“We are very nervous about community infections and we are keeping a close eye on the situation,” health vice-minister Kim Kang-lip said at a briefing. He said the authorities suspect the centre did not comply with “basic” quarantine principles, and a probe is under way.
A spokesman for Coupang however said the centre went through daily disinfection and all employees wore masks and gloves and had temperatures checked.
Despite the spike in new cases, more than 2 million children returned to class yesterday, the latest in a phased opening of schools.
Ms Park Hyeon-ji, a teacher at the Seryun Elementary School in Seoul, said teachers had been trained on how to react to any outbreak. “We’ll be able to take immediate action,” she said.