South Korean officials on alert over Covid outbreak at Seoul church

Seoul, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- The number of Covid-19 cases linked to a church in Seoul continued to rise on Tuesday, causing alarm among authorities as the South Korean capital faces its worst outbreak to date.

The director general of the center for disease prevention Kwon Jung-wook told a press conference that the number of cases related to the outbreak at the Sarang Jeil Church in the north of the capital had risen by 183 on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 457 so far.

It is the second largest outbreak 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 in February.

“As of midnight on Monday, we have identified 4,000 people linked to this church,” Kwon said. “The majority are residents of Seoul.”

However, the fact that members of the church’s congregation are spread across the country has authorities concerned about a possible further spread of the coronavirus.

Kwon said authorities were mulling tougher restrictions in the capital and the surrounding areas to confront the recent daily rise in cases.

On Friday, officials implemented so-called level two restrictions in Seoul and the province of Gyeonggi, which includes the closure of some public spaces, sports facilities and a reduction of class sizes.

Kwon urged citizens Tuesday to limit social interactions, cancel vacation plans and to wear masks in bars and restaurants.

The outbreak at the Sarang Jeil Church is particularly controversial given its leader, pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, on Saturday decided to join his congregation in a protest against the government in central Seoul despite positive cases among his followers.

Jun, 64, tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday. He is an outspoken critic of the liberal government and has drawn criticism for anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT messages.

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