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[Newsmaker] Shincheonji Wuhan church emerges as possible link to Korea virus spread

Members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus reportedly held meetings in the Chinese city of Wuhan until late last year, raising the possibility that the group’s South Korean members could have contracted COVID-19 virus there and brought it back to Korea.

Korea now has the greatest number of COVID-19 infections outside China with over 1,000 confirmed cases. The majority are tied either to the religious sect’s church in Daegu or to the Cheongdo Daenam Hospital in the nearby county of Cheongdo, North Gyeongsang Province.

Korea’s health officials have yet to identify exactly how the virus first spread to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted a member of the group, who claimed to have attended a gathering in Wuhan in December, as saying, “Rumors about a virus began to circulate in November but no one took them seriously.”

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus has some 200 members in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak, and gatherings were reportedly suspended in December after the group learned about the deadly virus.

A security officer checks the temperature of a passenger following the outbreak of COVID-19 at an expressway toll station in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan to the north, Hubei province, China on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations (Yonhap)
A security officer checks the temperature of a passenger following the outbreak of COVID-19 at an expressway toll station in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan to the north, Hubei province, China on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations (Yonhap)

As of Wednesday morning, Korea had reported 169 additional confirmed cases for a total to date of 1,146 patients and 12 fatalities, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daegu, Korea’s fourth-largest city, and adjacent North Gyeongsang Province have emerged as a hotbed of the virus, accounting for roughly 82 percent of the infections here.

Of all confirmed cases in Korea, 944 were reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where local authorities have tightened measures to contain the spread of the virus. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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