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South Korea moves to contain new outbreak, urges people to stay at home

South Korea moves to contain new outbreak, urges people to stay at home
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South Korean officials are urging citizens to stay at home as the country registered its fourth consecutive day of new cases in the triple digits, most of them around Seoul.

Monday saw 197 new cases, a drop from Sunday’s 279, The Associated Press reported. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 167 of the new cases were in the greater Seoul region, home to about half of the nation’s 51 million residents.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said people should remain at home and called on residents of Seoul and Geyonggi province to forgo visits to other regions for two weeks.

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Churches have emerged as a major source of new cases, including 300 linked to the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon’s northern Seoul congregation. The ministry of health said Sunday that it had filed a complaint against Jun, pastor of the Sarang Jeil Church. The pastor, a vocal critic of President Moon Jae-in, led an anti-government rally Saturday that drew thousands of participants.

The government has accused Jun of obstructing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, saying he discouraged parishioners from being tested for the virus and misreported information on church members to contact tracers. Health care workers have tested 2,000 parishioners and intend to test another 2,000, the AP reported.

Authorities previously arrested Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonju Church of Jesus, a religious sect believed to be the source of a major outbreak nearly six months ago. Officials said Lee withheld vital information from contact tracers.

Moon has said obstructing the tracing process is an “unforgivable act” and pledged to take “stern and strong measures” against churches involved in obstruction.

South Korea has recorded 15,515 cases and 305 deaths since the pandemic began. Sunday’s new cases marked the biggest single-day increase since the beginning of May.

The U.S., with a population of about 330 million, has recorded more than 5 million cases and about 170,000 deaths.