Gov't to Screen 200,000 Sect Members over Coronavirus

  • By Kim Han-soo, Yang Ji-ho

    February 26, 2020 11:30

    The government will conduct an exhaustive search for more than 200,000 followers of the dubious Shincheonji sect who may have been infected with coronavirus.

    The government on Tuesday said the sect has agreed to provide it with a full list of members and their contact numbers and the search "starts immediately."

    But it remains to be seen whether the sect will provide a full list because members tend to be secretive about their religious affiliation even vis-à-vis their own families. In fact, some health and quarantine workers who tested positive for the virus later admitted they were Shincheonji followers.

    A quarantine worker searches the Shincheonji church in Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday. /Yonhap

    The sect promised to provide followers' personal information including telephone numbers and addresses, and health officials across the country are fanning out to contact them, starting with members who visited the sect's Daegu church, which has become a hotbed of new infections.

    But experts said it could be a waste of stretched resources to divert health workers to the search. Daegu city has already completed its search for 9,300 local sect members after mobilizing 600 provincial government workers on Feb. 18 and another 600 police officers since Sunday.

    The Daegu church was visited by a so-called supercarrier who appears to have infected hundreds of other members, many of whom then traveled across the country to proselytize.

    Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus infections in Korea has surpassed 1,000, with 1,146 confirmed cases, as of Wednesday morning. The death toll has risen to 12. One victim, a Mongolian in his late 30s, became the first foreign victim to die here.

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