A total of 34 COVID-19 cases have been traced to a Protestant church in the southern city of Daegu, putting the city on high alert against a potential resurgence of mass infections.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), Daegu added 30 new cases Sunday, with 29 of them traced to the Sarang Church in Daegu. The last single case involves a caregiver at a hospital.

The new addition put the total caseload related with the church at 34. The first five cases were confirmed among church members who attended mass rallies on Aug. 15 in central Seoul, according to the Daegu city government.

Including the five people, 22 of the total 34 infected Sarang Church members were found to have joined the rallies, according to city officials.

The city’s daily new cases of 30 on Sunday marks the biggest regional number outside of Seoul and the broader capital areas, the center of recent mass outbreaks, according to the KCDC. With the new additions, the city’s accumulated COVID-19 cases reached 7,043 as of early Sunday.

The church also marks the biggest infection cluster in Daegu since thousands of COVID-19 cases were confirmed inside the fringe religious sect Shincheonji’s Daegu branch in March.

Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said the city ordered the shutdown of the church the previous day and will lodge an official complaint against its pastor for defying the city’s guidelines and holding in-person services in the past week.

The city sent emergency text messages to citizens late Saturday, reminding local churches of the nationwide ban on church gatherings and regular services currently in place.

The city also prodded those who have COVID-19 symptoms after contacting Sarang Church members or joining the rallies in Seoul to come forward to be tested immediately.

Currently, the city is running COVID-19 tests on members of the church after securing a list of some 100 members, according to city officials.

The city also ferreted out dozens of businesses, including clubs that operated in violation of quarantine requirements, and slapped administrative orders on them, such as business suspensions and fines, the officials also said.

They said the city of Daegu will consider ways to further toughen social distancing requirements on its citizens in a bid to curb the viral spread.



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