South Korea has witnessed a rapid spike in Coronavirus or COVID-19 cases. Reportedly, almost half of the 433 confirmed cases have been linked by authorities to a branch of a controversial religious group in the southern city of Daegu. According to reports, this religious group is often viewed with suspicion by traditional religious organisations.
Reports claim that around 9,300 Shincheonji members have been put into self-isolation and will be tested.
At a press briefing on Friday, South Korea's Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Director Jung Eun-Kyeong has reportedly said that the authorities are seeing a possibility "that the characteristics of many people sitting close together in a very confined space and holding service for more than an hour ... (could have led to) a few who were exposed infecting many (other) infectees".
According to reports, members of the group congregate in a way that puts them in close contact with one another for long.
Reports indicate that around 231 of the confirmed COVID-19 cases can be traced to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city of Daegu. Daegu is the fourth-largest city in South Korea. While the group reportedly said it "deeply regrets" the outbreak which occurred in their Daegu branch, it also expressed concern over "false information" that has been circulating about it.
Reports claim that the group is quite often considered to be a cult by mainstream churches. Shincheonji Church of Jesus was founded back in 1984 by Lee Man-hee, who, the followers believe is the second coming of Jesus. While the church may be considered unorthodox by mainstream churches, it boasts a membership exceeding 150,000 members.
The number of confirmed cases in South Korea has increased nearly eightfold since last week, the South Korean authorities are concerned that the number of infected will only rise. 6,037 people are being tested and 1,250 members have been reported to have exhibited Coronavirus like symptoms.
The Church has come under severe scrutiny recently because several of the confirmed cases within the church can be traced back to patient number 31 who is a 61-year-old woman and a follower of Shincheonji.
According to reports, patient 31 was first admitted to the hospital following a small car accident, On the fourth day of her stay at the hosp[ital she developed symptoms of the virus but refused to get checked. After eventually getting checked she was confirmed to be infected with the virus. it has been reported that before receiving the positive results, patient 31 left the hospital 4 times to attend church services which were attended by almost 1,000 other church members.
(Image Credit: PTI)