South Korea churches halt services as covid-19 cases soar

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    Roman Catholic churches remained closed across South Korea on Sunday, as officials struggle with a coronavirus outbreak that has led to the cancellation of many public gatherings.

    The Catholic Church has an estimated 5,8m members in the country.

    Major Protestant groups have also halted Sunday services. All Buddhist events have been called off.

    South Korea is battling the worst coronavirus outbreak outside China, with 3,736 cases and 18 deaths so far.

    Religion is at the centre of South Korea’s outbreak. Authorities say members of the fringe Christian group Shincheonji Church infected one another in the southern city of Daegu last month, before fanning out around the country.

    More than 85,403 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in over 50 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

    The global death toll is more than 2,900. The vast majority of infections and deaths are in China.

    What’s happening in South Korea?

    The Catholic Church – one of the main religious communities in the country – has suspended Masses in all its 1,734 parishes until 7 March.

    The Church had never taken such a step in 236 years of presence in South Korea.

    The country’s Buddhist organisations cancelled events earlier this week. Major protestant churches are holding Sunday services online.

    In the capital Seoul, worshippers were turned away from the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which posted a sermon for its 560,000 followers on YouTube, Reuters news agency reported.

    “I had heard there would be no service, but just came to check,” Song Young-koo told Reuters. “It’s a wise decision to do it online, since the virus would easily spread at mass gatherings and churches can be no exception.”

    The South Korean army has been spraying disinfectant in public areas

    On Sunday officials said nearly 9,000 followers of the Daegu-based Shincheonji Church were showing signs of the coronavirus and are being tested.

    The South Korean government has restricted public events in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. The K-pop group BTS has cancelled a forthcoming concert series in Seoul

    Source: BBC News

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