February 24, 2020 12:30
A religious sect that has been become a hotbed of coronavirus infections on Sunday protested that its followers are also "members of the Korean public and also victims."
The sect account for around half the number of new infections here, and although they were concentrated in Daegu, many followers had traveled across the country to proselytize.
The Shincheonji church said in a statement, "COVID-19 originated in China and spread to Korea and Shincheonji and its worshippers are also victims. Please refrain from hatred and unfounded criticism against our worshippers."
The sect issued the statement on its website and social media, saying it handed over a confidential list of all of its members to Daegu health authorities but the names were leaked to the public, resulting in persecution and even pressure to fire them from their jobs.
"We tried to hold a press conference, but we had problems finding anyone willing to provide the venue," one member said.
Police in Daegu formed a special taskforce on Sunday to locate over 600 Shincheonji members who are believed to have come into contact with the 31st confirmed case of infection, who is considered a "supercarrier," but have gone to ground without responding to phone calls and text messages from health officials.
Daegu city officials questioned 9,334 sect members registered in the city, and 1,248 said they are displaying telltale symptoms of coronavirus. But 670 more remain unaccounted for, and police allocated some 600 officers to track them down to stem a further spread of infections.
Health authorities hope to complete check-ups of the remaining sect members by Monday.
Daegu city has shut down 25 facilities operated by the sect since Feb. 18, when the supercarrier was first confirmed there.
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