Seoul has shut down more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos after dozens of coronavirus infections were linked to clubgoers who went out last weekend as South Korea relaxed social distancing guidelines.
The measures imposed by mayor Park Won-soon came after the national government urged entertainment venues around the nation to close or enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees to wear masks.
Mr Park said the closures will be maintained until the city concludes that infections risks have been meaningfully lowered.
South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention earlier said 18 fresh cases were reported in the 24 hours to midnight on Friday, all but one of them linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three clubs in the capital’s Itaewon district last Saturday before testing positive on Tuesday.
But Mr Park said 16 more cases were confirmed in Seoul alone in the following hours. He said this took the number of infections linked to clubgoers to 40 — 27 in Seoul, 12 in neighbouring Incheon and Gyeonggi province towns, and one in the southern port city of Busan.
In Germany, a fresh outbreak in slaughterhouses also illustrated the challenges authorities face as they seek to open up their economies.
Germany and South Korea have both carried out extensive testing and contact tracing, and have been hailed for avoiding the mass deaths that have overwhelmed other countries in their regions, but even there authorities have struggled to find the balance between saving lives and saving jobs.
Health officials are scrambling to contain fresh outbreaks at three slaughterhouses — two in the west of Germany and one in the north.
The response is seen as a test for the government’s new strategy of getting local authorities to tackle any surge in new cases, which was agreed on Wednesday as part of a plan for gradually easing restrictions and returning to normality.
Worldwide, the virus is confirmed to have infected over 3.9 million people and killed more than 275,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University based on data reported by governments.
Hard-hit Italy saw people return to the streets and revel in fine weather as restrictions there eased. In some cases, people went too far for the authorities.
Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala warned that “a handful of crazy people” were putting the city’s economic recovery at risk, and threatened to shut down the city’s trendy Navigli district after crowds of young Milanese were seen out at cocktail hour ignoring social-distancing rules.
In Rome, the Campo dei Fiori flower and vegetable market was bustling on Saturday morning, the first weekend Italians were allowed outside for more than just work and necessities. The Campo piazza, long a center of nightlife, has also come back to life at the evening aperitivo hour.
But confusion about what is allowed and what is not created frustration for business owners.
Carlo Alberto, owner of the TabaCafe, an Argentine empanada bar that was selling cocktails to a few customers on Friday, said that since reopening this week he had been threatened with a fine by the police because of the crowds that had formed in front of his bar.
“Am I supposed to send them home? They need a guard here to do that,” he said. “The laws aren’t clear, the decree isn’t clear. You don’t know what you can do.”
Pakistan has allowed shops, factories, construction sites and some other businesses to reopen, while 1,637 new cases and 24 deaths were reported. That was close to Thursday’s one-day peak of 1,764 new infections and raised the country’s total to 27,474.
Prime minister Imran Khan said his government is rolling back curbs because it cannot support millions of families who depend on daily wages.
The government warned controls will be reimposed if the public fails to follow social distancing guidelines.
The US government on Friday reported unemployment had surged to its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s, adding to conflict over when to allow businesses to reopen.
The Labour Department reported unemployment stood at 14.7% after 20.5 million jobs vanished in April.
The department, citing miscounting of some workers by its survey-takers, said the true rate probably was closer to 20%. Some economists said the total might be even higher at 23.6%, not far from the 1939 peak of 25%.
President Donald Trump is pushing state governors to allow factories, restaurants and shops to reopen despite warnings that it might lead to a deadly spike in infections.
China, where the pandemic began in December, announced plans to reopen more schools in the capital Beijing.
More than 84,200 junior high school students and 13,200 teachers will return to class on Monday, the city government announced. Nearly 50,000 high school students went back to class April 27.
Controls including checks for the virus’s telltale fever are still in place at apartment complexes and public buildings in the Chinese capital.
Italy’s government said it would take legal action to stop a northern province, Bolzano, from reopening stores this weekend in defiance of a national plan to wait until later this month.
Italy has reported more than 217,000 virus cases and 30,200 deaths.
In Brazil, the country’s fifth-biggest city, Fortaleza, started a lockdown on Friday amid surging infections, even as President Jair Bolsonaro asked the Supreme Court to order states to roll back restrictions on business.
Brazil has more than 140,000 cases and 9,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.