Thousands of Sect Followers Released from Self-Quarantine

  • By Heo Sang-woo

    March 13, 2020 12:36

    Health authorities are on edge as more than 5,000 followers of the Shincheonji sect in Daegu have now been released from self-quarantine with its founding anniversary approaching.

    Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin told reporters on Thursday, "March 14 is a very special day for Shincheonji followers." He urged the sect's followers to "set an example" by abiding by regulations against mass gatherings.

    By Thursday, 5,647 sect followers were let off from self-quarantine in Daegu after they tested negative for coronavirus.

    Police officers block the entrance of a Shincheonji church in Daegu on Thursday.

    The sect had emerged as a hotbed of coronavirus infections in Daegu last month, prompting city officials to obtain a list of its 10,434 members there and order them to quarantine themselves and be tested.

    Saturday marks the 36th anniversary of the dubious sect, and previous anniversaries have been marked with huge gatherings, the last two at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul, which were attended by over 10,000 followers. A Shincheonji follower said, "We are not going to celebrate our anniversary this year." But health authorities said it will be difficult to stop smaller gatherings to celebrate the occasion.

    Kwon said, "Holding secret gatherings or large rallies could seriously complicate efforts to stem the spread of infection. This is a strong warning against them."

    The sect was founded by Lee Man-hee, who claims to be the Second Coming and have a special key to interpreting the Bible. Its 300,000-plus followers are typically secretive about their affiliation unless they swarm out to proselytize.

    Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases stood at 7,979 as of Friday morning, up 110 from a day earlier. Some 177 were discharged and declared cured, the most since the outbreak started. It is the first time that the daily number of the cured has exceeded that of infections.

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