Seoul church tied to fresh Covid-19 outbreak in South Korea

Seoul, Aug 17 (efe-epa).- A church in Seoul in recent days has been linked to another Covid-19 outbreak on South Korea, and is under the scrutiny of the authorities for convening mass gatherings amid an upsurge in fresh cases in the country.

On Monday, 70 fresh cases were confirmed linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, taking the total number of cases linked to this religious institution in recent days to 319, said Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip in a press conference.

The South Korean authorities had ordered some 3,400 worshipers of this Presbyterian church to be put under quarantine and tested 2,000 of them, according to Ganglip, who added that they have found it difficult to identify all the followers of Sarang Jeil.

Infections linked to this church, located in the capital’s Seongbuk district of the capital and another in Gyeonggi province near Seoul, account for the majority of the new cases that South Korea has recorded since the beginning of last week.

Moreover, the latest figures indicate that Sarang Jeil Church is responsible for the second largest cluster of Covid-19 infections in the country since the beginning of the pandemic, after the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has 5,214 cases associated with it.

A total 197 new Covid-19 infections were recorded nationwide on Monday, the fourth day in a row with more than a hundred fresh cases, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC).

A day earlier, the country recorded 279 new cases of the novel coronavirus, the highest figures since the beginning of March.

Amid an upsurge in the number of cases and against the guidelines of the South Korean authorities, the Sarang Jeil Church called a new mass protest against current South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday in line with the rallies it has been organizing in recent months.

Moon, in a message on social media, described this gathering as an unforgivable act that threatened the lives of citizens, and a clear challenge to the national pandemic control and prevention system.

The leader of Sarang Jeil, the controversial pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, had been arrested in February for allegedly violating electoral law and was subsequently released on bail, on the condition that he would not re-engage in demonstrations related to his case pending judicial resolution.

The increase in cases in and around Seoul has led the authorities to tighten preventive measures in these areas since Saturday, which entails closing certain public institutions, limiting access to certain commercial establishments or asking citizens to wear masks in bars and restaurants. EFE-EPA


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