South Korea COVID-19 News: It’s Back! And It’s the Same All Again! This Time A Protestant Church With Thousands Of Its Members Involved
South Korea COVID-19 News
: South Korea is going through a new surge of COVID-19 cases almost reminiscent of the first time the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus struck in the country.
This time instead of a Christian cult church, a protestant church is involved with thousands of its members linked to a coronavirus cluster in Seoul already made to undergo compulsory quarantine.
On Monday, South Korean authorities made a public statement about the growing cases and accused the group's conservative leader who has reportedly tested positive of obstruction.
South Korea’s "trace, test and treat" approach has been held up as a global model in how to curb the virus, but it is now battling several clusters linked to religious groups.
It was reported that over the weekend that Seoul and neighboring Gyeonggi province, (representing almost 50 percent of South Korea’s total population) banned all religious prayer meetings or mass worship and urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel after a burst of new cases sparked fears of a major second wave.
The country reported 198 new infections on Monday, taking its total to 15,516, its fourth consecutive day of triple-digit increases after several weeks with numbers generally in the 30s and 40s. It was also reported that thousands are waiting to be tested as there is a growing backlog at testing facilities and labs.
Interestingly, the largest current cluster is centered on the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul.
The church is headed by Jun Kwang-hun, a controversial conservative pastor who is a leading figure in protests against President Moon Jae-in.
It was reported that a total of 316 cases linked to the church had been confirmed by the end of the weekend, officials said Monday, making it one of the biggest clusters so far, and around 3,500 members of the congregation had been asked to quarantine.
The numbers are expected to swell the next few days as many of its members have been exposed to each other during a variety of church events the last two weeks.
South Korea’s deputy health minister Dr Kim Gang-lip told media,” Around one in six of the church members tested so far had been positive requiring rapid testing and isolation. Unfortunately the church is being uncooperative as the list of members provided by the church was inaccurate, making the testing and isolation procedure very difficult".
Jung Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the situation amounted to an "early stage of a large-scale outbreak.”
She added, “If the outbreak is not controlled right now, the number of confirmed cases will increase exponentially, leading to collapse of the medical system and enormous economic damage.”
It was said that Sarang Jeil's leader Jun was among the speakers who addressed thousands of right-wing protestors who rallied against Moon's center-left government in the heart of Seoul at the weekend, despite the outbreak and calls to avoid large gatherings.
He tested positive for the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, local Yon
hap News Agency reported on Monday.
It was also said that the health and welfare ministry and the Seoul city authorities have filed two separate police complaints against Jun, accusing him of deliberately hindering efforts to contain the epidemic.
In the first outbreak in South Korea, the main culprits were followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is often condemned as a cult and was also accused of obstructing investigators. A female follower was described as a super spreader, helping to spread the virus initially to hundreds who in turn spread it to thousands of locals.
Pastor Lee Man-hee, leader of Shincheonji to which more than 5,000 cases were linked, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly giving inaccurate records of church gatherings and false lists of its members to health authorities.
Local authorities are saying that based on the preliminary cases and contact tracing efforts, the clusters are going to get full blown and South Korea can expect itself back to square one in less than two weeks.
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