Community centers and soup kitchens shut amid outbreak

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Community centers and soup kitchens shut amid outbreak

Community centers and soup kitchens are temporarily shutting down amid fears of a spread of the coronavirus.

According to the Yeongdeungpo District Office on Wednesday, it decided to temporarily close a total of 286 public libraries and community centers that are located in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul, to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus. Of them, 167 are public and private centers for senior citizens who are known to be particularly vulnerable to the infection.

The Yeongdeungpo District Library has also been temporarily shut until Feb. 16. The district’s sports facilities including its two sports centers and football stadium have been closed down since Jan. 31, but people who registered for programs run by the centers received a full refund.

The Yeongdeungpo office on Monday also indefinitely closed its community center that regularly holds an exhibition of insects, which was mostly visited by children, as well as a public educational institute for people with disabilities.

“We will keep the public libraries and community centers that are located in Yeongdeungpo District closed until the situation regarding the spread of the virus improves,” said an official from the Yeongdeungpo office.

The Dobong District Office also announced on Wednesday that it decided to close down its public facilities including the Dobong District Library and Changdong Sports Culture Center, both in northern Seoul. All programs that were planned to be run by the centers have also been canceled. A total of 80 facilities that are most frequently visited by residents have been shut down so far.

A total of 485 kindergartens and centers for senior citizens located in Dobong District have been completely disinfected, according to the Dobong District Office.

The Dobong District Office also canceled its festival celebrating Jeongwol Daeboreum, or the first full moon on the lunar calendar, which was scheduled to be held on Friday near Jungnang Stream in northern Seoul.

“I want to ask all Dobong District residents for understanding regarding the closures of facilities and the cancellation of the festival in order to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus,” Lee Dong-jin, mayor of Dobong District, said. “We will do our best to protect our residents from the virus as we consider their health and safety as a top priority.”

The 26 soup kitchens managed by the Korean Federation of Volunteering, which regularly provide meals for elderly people at least three times a week, have been temporarily closed since Tuesday. About 260,000 elderly people visited the soup kitchens every month.

The city of Gwangmyeong also announced that it plans to close six soup kitchens located in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, from today, amid the rapid spread of the virus. The six soup kitchens provide free meals to about 800 elderly people a day.

“Our decision to close the soup kitchens is an attempt to protect senior citizens who are known to be particularly vulnerable to the infection,” an official from the city of Gwangmyeong said. “We will try our best to support the elderly in different ways so that they don’t have to skip meals.”

Seongbok Central Presbyterian Church in central Seoul, which has been providing free meals to 80 youths since 2013, is currently discussing also closing down its soup kitchen. The church shut down its kitchen during winter vacation but was set to reopen it on Feb. 24.

“We don’t know what to do regarding reopening our kitchen due to the fears of the spread of the virus,” a volunteer of the Seongbok Central Presbyterian Church said.

BY CHEA SARAH, KIM HYUN-YE [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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