Over 1,600 members of a minor Christian sect, which was at the center of the first wave of coronavirus infections in South Korea between late February and March, have donated their plasma to aid the development of a cure, the church said Sunday.
A total of 1,646 congregants of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who had recovered from COVID-19 had joined the plasma drive as of Sunday, while declining to be financially compensated, the church said. Health authorities offer 300,000 won ($252) to donors.
“It is our way of giving back part of what we have received from the country, from free testing to free treatment,” the church said.
Shincheonji is the country’s single largest cluster of coronavirus infections to date, with nearly 4,500 confirmed cases. The tally includes the church’s members, their families and others who contracted the virus from them.
In a bid to speed up the development of plasma-based therapy for COVID-19, the government is asking recovered patients to donate their plasma. While 2,634 have so far expressed their intention of doing so, not quite 2,000 people have followed through.
Plasma donations can be made at 21 Red Cross centers in the Seoul metropolitan area and Gangwon Province. The campaign is set to expand nationwide starting Monday, with 25 more centers to be added in the rest of the country.