South Korean authorities have sought to press charges against the leaders of a secretive religious sect which practises an offshoot of Christianity for failing to cooperate in coronavirus. The Seoul City government, in a statement, said that they have filed a legal complaint against the religious leaders of Shincheonji including its founder Lee Man-hee.
The religious leaders are accused of homicide and violating the Infectious Disease and Control Act allegedly causing a surge in the number of coronavirus infections. The major outbreak in South Korea took place in the southern city of Daegu where most of the cases were related to Shincheonji members.
"If they had actively taken early measures, we could have prevented the explosive rise of Covid-19 cases in Daegu and North Gyeongbuk province and the deaths of several people," wrote Seoul mayor Park Won-soon on his Facebook page.
Last month, health surveys were conducted on 30,814 Shincheonji members of which 740 tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. During the health survey, 210 members performed the task on behalf of the government since group leaders said that members won’t take calls from people outside the group.
On March 1, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea stood at 4,212 and 22 people have lost their lives due to the deadly infection. According to media reports, around 60 per cent of the cases across the country are related to Shincheonji members.
Park, in a statement posted to mayor’s office website, said that the prosecutors need to carry out a rigorous investigation and make sure it leads to a strict punishment on the Shincheonji leadership that is at the centre of this crisis.
According to the latest report, 42 new deaths in China due to coronavirus infections have been confirmed, taking the total death toll because of the deadly virus to nearly 2,900. While most of the cases are from Hubei province of China and the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, other countries, including the United States, Iran, Italy, and Japan, have also reported deaths related to COVID-19.