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[Newsmaker] Religious groups respond to COVID-19 outbreak

Feb. 20, 2020 - 15:03 By Song Seung-hyun
Workers sanitize a church in Daegu that the 31st confirmed patient had visited. (Yonhap)

Religious organizations are on alert after a drastic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases was linked to a church in Daegu.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the South Korean government had reported 22 new cases of the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The total number of infections in Korea had jumped to 104.

It is suspected that the nation’s 31st patient hastened its spread by visiting a church in Daegu, which is associated with a minor religious sect.

Amid the quick spread of COVID-19 in Daegu, the Catholic Church was the first religious group to raise the red flag, canceling Masses and other large group activities in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province until March 5.

“For the safety of our Catholics and citizens of Daegu, we are announcing these rules. Please follow them to prevent the spread of the virus,” the Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu said in a statement.

The Christian Council of Daegu, a Protestant group, also announced its official guidelines for churches in Daegu on Thursday at 5 p.m.

“For the time being, we ask to minimize worship that includes all members of the church. Except for inevitable Sunday worship, we ask all public worship and prayer meetings to be canceled,” the Rev. Chang Young-il said in a statement.

He also expressed concern that followers of the church in Daegu, which mainstream Christian groups consider a cult, might choose to worship at mainstream churches and spread the virus to existing church members.

“According to the media, those followers are not cooperative in preventing the spread of the virus, so we ask Christian churches to check and allow only registered church members to attend the worship service.”

Korea’s biggest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, said it had ordered temples across the country to cancel large group events.

“We also sent out hygiene rules that should be followed at all temples in Korea. Also, local headquarters near Daegu like Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, and Beomeosa Temple in Busan are expected to come up with their own policies on responding to the virus outbreak,” Jogye Order official Ven. Lim Yoong-chang said.

By Song Seung-hyun (