The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced on Friday (21 February) that 52 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed nationwide, while 39 of them were linked with the case at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city of Daegu, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to 156.
Described as a “super-spreading event”, all 39 church members confirmed with Covid-19 were infected by a 61 year-old woman worshipper who tested positive for virus.
Referring to the large number of confirmed cases in the city, Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said, “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” while adding that more than 400 church members who developed symptoms will be tested for coronavirus.
Mr Kwon also told the media that all members of the church have been asked to stay at home isolated from their families.
The country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million people seems deserted after many infected cases were confirmed to be linked to the church cluster.
According to Guardian, all kindergartens and public libraries in Daegu were closed down while schools were considering delaying the beginning of spring semester which was scheduled for early March.
Shopping malls, restaurants and streets in the busy city seemed empty and quiet. A local resident speaking to Reuters described it as “someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city”.
Meanwhile, the military troops stationed in Daegu have been forbidden by its country’s defence ministry from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.
As reported in Channel News Asia, Daegu and its neighbouring Cheongdo county will be designated as a “special care zone” which will be provided with military medical staff and temporary isolation facilities.
The country’s Prime Minister, Chung Sye-kyun said, “It is urgent to find those who were in contact with the infected and treat the diagnosed people as soon as possible. We will proactively provide necessary assistance including sickbeds, personnel and equipment.”
The first confirmed infected 61 year-old woman at the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus has attended at least four services before being diagnosed with Covid-19.
The woman first developed a fever on 10 Feb but reportedly twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus because she had not recently travelled abroad, as reported by AFP.
The church associated with the coronavirus outbreak also announced that it would close down its facilities nationwide. It then issued a statement saying, “We are deeply sorry that because of one of our members, who thought of her condition as a cold because she had not travelled abroad, led to many in our church being infected and thereby caused concern to the local community,” reported by AFP.
Shincheonji Church of Jesus is an entity allegedly of being a cult with founder, Lee Man-hee claiming he has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement.
South Korea reported its first death from the coronavirus on Thursday (20 Feb) with total of 156 infected cases have been confirmed in the country.