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[Newsmaker] 46 infections confirmed at apartment complex in Daegu

Daegu authorities fail to detect epidemiological links to apartment, where 94 of 140 residents were Shincheonji followers


Forty-six residents of an apartment complex in Daegu, the city at the center of South Korea’s novel coronavirus outbreak, were confirmed to have contracted the virus.

All 46 confirmed patients from the apartment block were followers of a fringe religious sect and were admitted to hospitals or community treatment centers for quarantine, according to the Daegu Metropolitan Government.

Daegu authorities faced criticism for their failure to detect early signs of epidemiological links to the apartment complex, where 94 of the 140 residents were followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus -- the biggest cluster of infections here, accounting for 64 percent of the country’s total cases.

One resident of the apartment block was confirmed positive for the virus Feb. 19, and more cases were confirmed at the residential complex recently. Daegu’s health authorities opened an epidemiological study on the residents at the apartment block on Wednesday.

Out of the 140 residents, 80 people had tested negative and 14 were awaiting their results as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The confirmed patients were either instructed to self-isolate or were admitted to hospitals or community quarantine centers, according to the Daegu City government.

The residential complex was placed on lockdown Saturday, the first time such a drastic action was taken since the coronavirus outbreak started.

The municipality has identified 10 residences where groups of Shincheonji followers live together, said Kim Jong-yeon, an official from Daegu City’s infectious disease response team, with the city looking into the other venues.

Korea has so far reported 7,313 cases as of Sunday afternoon, with 9 in 10 of them in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.

The apartment block, which consists of two five-story buildings, is run by the city for unmarried working women who are under 35 years old.

The mass infection is the latest in a series of cluster outbreaks at hospitals, nursing homes and other social welfare facilities in Korea, which together account for over 79 percent of all infections here.

“A lot of the residents at the apartment were found to be relatively young Shincheonji followers. (The apartment) has been put under isolation on the possibility that additional cases may occur,” KCDC official Kwon Jun-wook said at Saturday’s briefing.