South Korea Posts Surge in Coronavirus Cases Tied to Church

(Bloomberg) -- Confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea have more than doubled within a day, with a surge tied to a fringe religious sect whose members may have contracted the virus from a single person.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday that of the 31 new confirmed cases, 24 attended the “same Korean cult” with at least five of them having an “epidemiological link“ to a patient confirmed with the coronavirus earlier this week.

The Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, formerly known as Shincheonji Church of Jesus, said in a statement on its website that the patient identified as No. 31 by KCDC attended a worship service in one of its churches in Daegu. The pastor told local media that some 1,000 people attended the same service.

The outbreak in Daegu, a city about 235 kilometers (150 miles) south of Seoul, has raised renewed concerns about the virus after a lull in reported cases last week. On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in warned that the impact from the virus on the economy could be bigger and longer-lasting than the 2015 MERS epidemic that killed 38 people in South Korea.

“We have closed down our Daegu church as of the 18th morning and are continuing to investigate, disinfect, and take preventive measures,” the group said in a statement. “We have also ordered our 12 regional branch churches and its assembly premises to block entrances, and to replace services and meetings to online or family services instead.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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