Two South Korean apartment buildings heavily occupied by members of a sect linked to most of the country’s coronavirus cases have been quarantined, after dozens of residents tested positive for the disease, an official said yesterday.
The move comes as the country, which has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the world outside China, reported 448 new infections, taking its total to 7,041.
While 448 new cases represents a sizeable jump, it marked a third straight day of declines in the number of new cases for South Korea.
Another two deaths were reported by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), bringing the toll to 48.
“There is a possibility that new cases will increase as tests are still under way,” Mr Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director at the KCDC, told a briefing.
The apartment complex in Daegu – the country’s fourth-largest city and the centre of South Korea’s outbreak – was placed under lockdown after 46 residents were confirmed to have the virus, Mayor Kwon Young-jin said.
More than 140 people live in the two buildings, including 94 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is often accused of being a cult and is linked to most of South Korea’s infections.
It is the first residential community to be isolated over the outbreak, Mayor Kwon said.
The property is owned by the city government and only single women aged 35 or under can apply to live there.
Over 5,000 cases have now been confirmed in Daegu – where the outbreak among Shincheonji members began with a 61-year-old woman, who developed symptoms on Feb 10 and attended at least four worship services in the city.
The authorities are carrying out checks on more than 260,000 people associated with the religious group.
Mayor Kwon urged followers to come forward and be tested after more than 30 per cent of the 709 members checked on Friday returned positive results.
The members’ cooperation is crucial to “prevent further infections in our community”, Mayor Kwon said.
The large amount of infections in the country has prompted nearly 100 nations to impose curbs on travellers from South Korea.
On Friday, South Korea said it would suspend visas and visa waivers for Japan in response to Tokyo’s travel restrictions on South Koreans, as fears over the virus outbreak reignited a feud between the neighbours dating back to before World War II.
Dr Mike Ryan, top emergencies expert at the World Health Organisation, told a briefing in Geneva on Friday that Japan and South Korea should focus on managing the epidemic and saving lives, and not on “a political spat over travel restrictions”.
Source: STRAITS TIMES