South Korea advised nightclubs to close for a month on Friday, and may delay next week’s planned reopening of schools, after a man later diagnosed with COVID-19 visited numerous gay bars in Seoul last weekend, leading to a fresh outbreak of the virus in the capital city.
It reportedly marked the first new local infection in four days, and now gay people in South Korea — where the LGBT community already faces rampant discrimination — fear backlash, especially if they need to be tested because they visited the clubs.
The Guardian reports: Members of the gay community said they fear efforts to out them after a major media outlet, Kookmin Ilbo, reported that the man had been in gay clubs in the capital’s Itaewon district. Some social media users then posted video footage from its bars and clubs, urging followers for donations “to help put a stop to these disgusting goings-on.” … Health officials say they have a list of 1,500 people who visited the clubs last weekend and authorities are asking anyone who visited the premises to get tested. A 37-year-old IT engineer using his regular pseudonym, Jang Ji-myung, said he had been at three of the clubs after months of staying away but feared for his job if he was tested. “The company where I work is a regular Korean company, which means they are very anti-gay. I have taken part in conversations where my boss and colleagues said all gay men should be put to death in a gas chamber,” he said.
More from The Korea Herald: Human rights activists on Friday denounced some South Korean media outlets for unnecessarily highlighting the main clientele of the bars and clubs he visited, saying this could incite hatred toward LGBT people and hinder the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. “Revealing detailed personal information such as age, residence and occupation leads to outing the individual and promoting prejudice and hatred against sexual minorities,” an association of human rights groups formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic said in a statement Friday. Because of the media reports, seeking treatment now means revealing a sensitive aspect of one’s identity, the groups said, and the stigma and risks of being outed could push anyone who came into contact with the confirmed patient further into hiding. … “What we need now is not hatred and discrimination, but realizing that our safety is tied together, and we should all come in solidarity for that.”
The Associated Press reports: Schools were supposed to begin reopening next week, but the fears of a resurgence came after Friday’s disclosure of 25 new cases, South Korea’s first jump above 10 in five days. … [An official] said the man did not wear a mask inside the clubs and that the number of infections will likely rise as health workers trace and test contacts. The clubs’ visitor lists show they received more than 1,500 customers combined on Saturday. The central government’s advisory doesn’t require clubs to close, but if they become a source of infections after failing to enforce anti-virus measures they could be shut down. Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said the new cases included three foreigners and a soldier. “A drop of ink in clear water spreads swiftly,” Kim said during a briefing, urging vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus. “Anyone can become that drop of ink that spreads COVID-19.”