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Protest outbreak leaves South Korea COVID-19 infections ‘in full swing’

11:06 | 21/08/2020

Used to be one of the world’s COVID-19 success stories, South Korea’s coronavirus infections are back “in full swing” and spreading nationwide after members of a church attended a political demonstration.

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protest outbreak leaves south korea covid 19 infections in full swing
Protest outbreak leaves South Korea COVID-19 infections ‘in full swing’ (Photo: Anadolu Agency)

A total of 288 new cases were reported as of Wednesday midnight, marking a week of triple-digit daily increases, report from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The latest outbreak is driven by hundreds of infections among members of a church run by a far-right preacher. They had attended an anti-government protest in Seoul on Aug. 15, the 75th anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender and the end of colonial rule, Reuters said.

Following the incident, KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook urged all demonstrators to get tested immediately at nearby public health clinics to protect the vulnerable around them.

The demonstration may have been a “catalyst” for the nationwide outbreak, as churchgoers chartered buses to the capital from their homes across the country, including the southern port of Busan, Kwon said.

This is a grave situation that could possibly lead to a nationwide pandemic,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing.

Kwon commented that the country could experience the types of spikes and continued infections witnessed in the United States and Europe unless any aggressive contact tracing is put in place.

Consider the COVID-19 pandemic now to be in full-swing”, Kwon was quoted by New York Post as saying.

protest outbreak leaves south korea covid 19 infections in full swing
To date, South Korea has reported 16,346 cases of the new coronavirus with 307 COVID-19 deaths (Photo: VIR)

To date, South Korea has reported 16,346 cases of the new coronavirus with 307 COVID-19 deaths. If infections continue rising at the current rate or accelerate, authorities say they will likely impose the strictest level of social distancing - closing schools, requiring employees to work from home and limiting gatherings to 10 people.

At least 53 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, bringing the group’s total to 676. Hundreds more church members are being traced for testing.

The government has banned in-person church meetings in the greater Seoul area - an urban sprawl of 25 million people - and closed other high-risk locations, including nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffets and cyber cafes.

The Seoul city government restricted rallies there to fewer than 10 people from Friday through the rest of August.

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