Cases spike after clubs re-open . . .
South Korea has experienced a sudden jump in new COVID-19 cases after attempting to re-open its economy. First reported on May 6, the spike was traced to Seoul’s popular nightlife district of Itaewon, resulting in the closure of nightlife venues in Seoul and other municipalities. Authorities have identified 94 new cases comprised of club-goers and their families, and expect more as testing continues. After an aggressive response involving high levels of testing, social distancing, and quarantines, South Korea drastically reduced its new cases to fewer than 50 a day. Currently, the country’s cases sit at nearly 11,000, with 236 deaths.
Communities fear backlash . . .
South Korea’s LGBTQ community fears social backlash since the media reported that a gay man was the first reported case from Itaewon, which is also Seoul’s gay district. Although same-sex activity is not illegal in South Korea, LGBTQ individuals still face discrimination and stigma. Conservative and religious groups have impeded legislation that would ensure equal rights and protections for these communities. After news reports identified the clubs as gay venues, anti-gay hate speech increased on social media, and terms like “gay coronavirus” trended on search websites. As health officials race to identify and test club-goers and slow transmission, many individuals fear coming forward or seeking medical help since testing positive for COVID-19 may ‘out’ them and have negative repercussions for their social lives and careers.
Not out of the woods yet . . .
South Korea is not the only country to experience a rise in cases as it attempts to re-start its economy: in China, Wuhan has reported a new cluster of cases since ending its lockdown a month ago. The northeast Chinese city of Shulan, bordering North Korea and Russia, was also put under lockdown following new cases. Similarly, Singapore, hailed as an early victor over the virus, has experienced a second wave, which forced it to reinforce restrictions. New COVID-19 outbreaks as economies re-open are not surprising according to public health experts. Equally important for Canada and other countries is combatting any waves of discrimination against, and scapegoating of, vulnerable communities at home or abroad.
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada: Pride abroad: Canada’s support of LGBTQ activism
- The Washington Post: Tracing South Korea’s latest virus outbreak shoves LGBTQ community into unwelcome spotlight
- Yonhap News Agency: Infection cases linked to Itaewon clubs rise to 94