An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a Starbucks coffee shop in Paju, South Korea has infected dozens of customers – but at least four of the site’s workers have been spared, with health officials blaming face masks for the reason.
A woman infected with COVID-19 visited the cafe earlier this month, and poor ventilation linked to an air conditioning unit in the cafe likely contributed to the spread of the virus, Bloomberg reported.
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At least 55 cases of the virus have occurred as a result, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
But four of the cafe’s employees – all of whom wore masks during their shifts – were spared. Officials said customers were likely more vulnerable because they had removed their masks to eat and drink, Young-do, a government spokesperson for Paju, told Bloomberg.
“The virus can spread where people cannot wear masks while eating or drinking tea, as evidenced by Starbucks in Paju,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, head of Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. diseases, according to Yonhap News Agency. “Although infections did not occur by aerosol transmission, droplet transmission is also possible in a confined space, and the virus could have been spread by manual contact. ”
Towards the onset of the pandemic, South Korea was touted as a success in controlling the virus, with some pointing to the country’s robust testing and contract-tracing efforts as a model for other countries struggling to take the lead. control of widespread COVID-19 infections.
But South Korea has since seen an increase in the number of cases of the virus, especially in Seoul, the country’s capital, where officials for the first time on Monday ordered the masks to be worn indoors and out. outside, Reuters reported.
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The surge in cases in Seoul has since led to the closure of all schools and kindergartens in the city, the BBC reported.
The country reported its largest increase in coronavirus cases since early March on Sunday, with 17,399 cases and 309 deaths from COVID-19, South Korean officials said.