South Korea reports infection signs at weekend Seoul rally

Seoul, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- South Korean health authorities said Wednesday that they are seeing signs of infection among attendees of a massive weekend rally in Seoul in which parishioners from a Christian church that is linked to the latest COVID-19 outbreak participated.

The director general of the Korea Center for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control (KCDC), Kwon Jung-wook, told a press conference Wednesday that of the 283 community infections detected on Tuesday, 166 correspond to the outbreak originating in the Sarang Jeil Church. Infections linked to the church now sit at 623.

The church has become the second largest virus cluster detected in South Korea since the beginning of the pandemic following a separate outbreak of around 5,000 cases related to the secretive Shincheonji church in the city of Daegu, located 230 kilometers (143 miles) southeast of Seoul, in February.

Thousands of worshipers of the Sarang Jeil Presbyterian church, based in the Seongbuk district of the South Korean capital, are believed to have participated in a 10,000-strong demonstration held in Seoul on Saturday to protest against the government of liberal president Moon Jae-in.

Kwon said that 10 people appear to have been infected in these protests so far.

The authorities believe that followers of the church and its leader, Pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, who has led several anti-government rallies in the capital and also tested positive for COVID-19 after the weekend demonstration, disobeyed the isolation order given by the authorities after several parishioners tested positive days before the rally.

The director general of the KCDC said that if the cases continued to increase until the weekend with most still linked to the latest outbreak, it would indicate that the government’s containment system was working.

Due to the increase in new daily infections in the capital area during the past week, authorities decided to raise the level of social distancing in the area to level 2 in the three-tier system on Sunday.

This means closing public spaces and sports stadiums and reducing the number of students in school classrooms to one third of the total.

Religious services have also been banned, while citizens are being asked to reduce their social life as much as possible to combat the largest outbreak faced by the capital region, where half the country resides.

With just over 16,000 cases and 306 deaths in total, South Korea is one of the countries that has best controlled the pandemic so far thanks to its comprehensive contact tracing system. EFE-EPA


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