Churches closed in South Korea as virus infections increase

Churches closed in South Korea as virus infections increase
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Churches were closed across South Korea as the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase in the country.

Several churches held online services to avoid public gatherings, as the number of cases reached more than 3,700 in the country, with 586 cases reported Sunday. The jump in cases came the day after the biggest one-day spike of 813 cases in the country, Reuters reported. Twenty people have died in South Korea thus far.

The South Korean government has cautioned that the country is at a “critical moment” in attempting to combat the coronavirus, urging people to avoid religious services and political gatherings. 

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The Catholic Church closed its doors to more than 1,700 locations for the first time in its 236-year history in the country, according to the Reuters. Buddhist temples also cancelled events.  About a dozen churchgoers were sent away from Yoido Full Gospel Church, as the church broadcasted its service via YouTube for its 560,000 followers.

The newly identified cases included 333 from the city of Daegu, which has a church at the center of the outbreak, after some church members visited Wuhan, China, in January, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

“We’re tracing back how many members had gone to China,” KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook told a briefing, according to Reuters.

The church’s founder, chairman and self-proclaimed messiah has been tested for the virus and hasn’t gotten results yet, the Yonhap news agency reported Sunday, the news outlet reported. The church has also issued a statement Sunday asking for an end to “stigmatization, hatred and slander” against its followers.

President Moon Jae-in pledged greater efforts and more funding to fight the virus in a speech as he also called on unity.

“The outbreak can threaten our lives temporarily, but it cannot break our unity and hope,” he said, according to Reuters. 

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha asked U.S. politicians in a call Sunday to refrain from “excessive action that could needlessly shrink exchanges between both countries” after the U.S. issued a travel advisory against South Korean areas affected by coronavirus, Reuters reported.