Shincheonji Sect Linked to over Half of Coronavirus Infections

      March 04, 2020 13:53

      The coronavirus infections in Korea jumped to 5,328 as of Wednesday morning, a rapid surge from about 1,000 about a week ago. Most of them were reported from Daegu and North Gyeosang Province, but the virus is rapidly affecting other regions as well.

      In Seoul and surrounding areas, the confirmed cases now surpassed 200 -- Seoul (99), Incheon (9), and Gyeonggi Province (101).

      Vehicles arrive for drive-through testing for coronavirus at a facility in Gwangju on Tuesday. /Yonhap

      More than half of the infections are linked to the secretive Shincheonji sect. According to government data on 4,812 patients on Tuesday, some 2,698 or 56.1 percent contracted the virus through the religious group's Daegu branch. They are mostly women with 62.4 percent and those in their 20s with 29.4 percent, the highest among all age groups.

      But Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said, "It is unlikely for other Shincheonji branches across the country to become hotbeds of coronavirus" now that many have been closed.

      Municipal officials make calls to followers of the Shincheonji sect in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday. /Newsis

      The risk of further spread remains, however, as a growing number of new infections are unrelated to the sect. Kim said that the government will now change its priority from Shincheonji followers to ordinary citizens in coronavirus testing to minimize further transmission.

      His remark came after the deaths of several people who could not get tested in time because they were not Shincheonji followers.

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