623 COVID-19 cases linked to Sarang Jeil Church

Aug 20, 2020, 09:07 am

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Sarang Jeil Church in Seongbuk, a district in northern Seoul, is at the center of the coronavirus resurgence in the country./ Source: Yonhap News

AsiaToday reporter Jang Ji-young 

The COVID-19 outbreaks linked to religious gatherings in the greater Seoul area are spreading across the nation. South Korean health authorities have found Wednesday that at least 166 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, a Seoul church at the center of a resurgence of the virus in Seoul and the surrounding area, taking the accumulated number of cases from it to 623. Among them, 230 cases have been confirmed in regions other than Seoul.

In the meantime, a COVID-19 patient in his 50s who ran away from a hospital in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, was caught by the police 25 hours later. Before being caught, the man went around Seoul’s Jongno and Sinchon areas by public transportation and stayed at a coffee shop for a long time, raising concerns. There is a growing concern about infection caused by the man as the number of infection cases are increasing in facilities related to daily life such as coffee shops and restaurants, unlike previous mass infection clusters such as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Diagnosing the current situation as an early stage of a massive wave of outbreaks, the public health authorities called for the general public’s cooperation. 

The church-related cases are spreading widely to churches, medical centers, call centers, and other facilities across the country. According to the health authorities, the virus have spread to at least 114 establishments, including 4 call centers, 44 offices, 10 social welfare facilities, 9 medical institutions, 5 religious facilities, 7 daycare centers and kindergartens, and 33 schools and academies. 

The COVID-19 patient, who ran away while undergoing COVID-19 quarantine treatment, was apprehended in the early hours of Wednesday. According to the police and Hollys Coffee, the man was caught by the police at about 1:15 a.m. at Hollys Coffee in Sinchon. There were about 40 people at the coffee shop when the man was taken into custody. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is planning to investigate whether they are subject to self-quarantine and COVID-19 diagnostic test.

The health authorities said the nation is facing a “crisis of desperation,” calling for the general public’s cooperation. “The government is focusing its efforts on containing the spread, but there is a limit to controlling the situation only by tracking and applying quarantine measures,” said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip in a regular press briefing. “We are facing a critical juncture, as the outbreaks in the Seoul metropolitan area can lead to a new wave of nationwide pandemic.”

The government asked residents of the Seoul metropolitan area to comply with its Level 2 social distancing rules. “For the next two weeks, we urge residents of the metropolitan area to stay home. They should only go outside on limited occasions, including going to work, purchasing necessities, and visiting hospitals,” Kim said. 

The country added 297 more COVID-19 cases, including 283 local infections, raising the total caseload to 16,058, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

#COVID-19 #Sarang Jeil Church 
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