Once the world's second hardest-hit by the coronavirus, South Korea has touted one of the lowest Covid-19 infection and fatality rates among developed nations. But a church cluster and an anti-government rally on Aug 15 in Seoul may overturn its success.
Cases traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, which is at the centre of the recent surge of infections, was more than 1,000, said the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The church outbreak led to at least 25 new clusters, with cases reported in several provinces and municipalities outside Greater Seoul. More than 300 people who joined the protest this month together with church members have tested positive so far.
The government accuses the church of obstruction by not providing a complete list of members and spreading fake news, while church members say they are victims of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
When the first infections were reported among church members on Aug 12, the government said the group flouted social distancing instructions, with the church's leader and others attending the massive rally.
Vice-Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters two weeks ago that the authorities had difficulty tracking down the Sarang Jeil members and placing them under quarantine because the name list was inaccurate.
Police on Friday said they have initiated a probe into a Sarang Jeil pastor for allegedly urging a churchgoer who had symptoms of the Covid-19 to postpone taking a virus test, one day before the Aug 15 rally. The churchgoer later tested positive for the virus.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK,BLOOMBERG, REUTERS
1,000 Number of Covid-19 cases traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the centre of the recent surge in infections.