Churches were closed in South Korea on Sunday with many holding online services instead as authorities fought to rein in public gatherings, with 586 new coronavirus infections taking the tally to 3,736 cases, APA reports citing Reuters.
“It’s a wise decision to do it online, since the virus would easily spread at mass gatherings and churches can be no exception.”
Authorities have warned of a “critical moment” in the battle on the virus, urging people to refrain from attending religious services and political events and stay home this weekend.
For the first time in its 236-year history, South Korea’s Catholic church decided to halt masses at more than 1,700 locations nationwide. Buddhist temples also called off events, while major Christian churches held online services.
Of the new cases, 333 were from the southeastern city of Daegu, the location of a church at the centre of the outbreak, and 26 from the nearby province of North Gyeongsang, KCDC said.
The agency said some church members in January visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged late last year, adding that it was investigating to determine if the trip played a role in the outbreak.
“We’re tracing back how many members had gone to China,” its deputy director, Kwon Jun-wook, told a briefing.
“Our top priority is to find out how the coronavirus has been transmitted so widely among the Shincheonji followers,” he added, in a reference to the church involved.
The numbers of cases was likely to continue growing in early March, he added, pledging greater efforts to rein in key infection sources.
At a news conference in Seoul a group of doctors and chiefs of public hospitals urged the government to combat a shortage of beds by assigning them to the critically ill, after two patients died in self-quarantine at home.