The increase in COVID-19 infections has been observed in many traditional markets in Seoul in the past month, triggering worries among merchants and customers.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said major COVID-19 outbreaks since July have been connected to four traditional markets in Seoul.
The Garak Market in the southern capital’s Songpa District has the most number of linked cases with 840 patients traced to the market as of Sunday. The first case involved a worker who was confirmed to be infected by COVID-19 last Aug. 31. The spread of the disease reached not only the merchants and visitors but their families and acquaintances as well.
Meanwhile, 51 infections were connected to Cheongnyangni Market in Dongdaemun District since the first positive case was confirmed last Aug. 30. Some 320 cases were logged in another traditional market in central Seoul, the Jungbu Market, since Sept. 13.
Mapo Agricultural and Marine Products Market in Mapo District became the recent area where cases have been connected with. Since the first case was reported on Sept. 25, a total of 90 cases were already linked to the market.
Positive cases confirmed in these areas are subject to change. The ongoing epidemiological investigation is expected to increase the number of reported cases.
Among the reasons for the spike in the cases are the poor handling of visitor entry logs, public health authorities said.
Traditional markets do not practice QR codes and the recording of contact information of visitors upon entry unlike what other establishments do.
This exemption has led to the challenge to trace the customers who came in contact with COVID-19 positive persons, which contributes to the virus spread.
Another factor is the poor ventilation in the markets, the KDCA said, adding that the further transmission between workers happens in shared shower areas, smoking spaces, and toilets.
The Mapo District Office has moved to stop the spread and ordered the closure of the Mapo Agricultural and Marine Products Market. This triggered reactions from the workers, The Korea Times reported.
The market is closed indefinitely following the record of more infections. Initially, the closure was set from Oct. 6 to 8 only to give way to disinfection. The schedule of reopening will depend on the number of cases, the district office said.