By Helene Fung
South Korean officials from the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 142 more coronavirus cases on Saturday morning, raising the national total to 346 cases, and the total number of deaths to two.
Ninety-two among the new cases were connected to a hospital in the southern city of Cheongdo, connected to the Christian sect Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
Cheongdois the birthplace of Shincheonji’s founder Lee Man-hee, who is worshipped by followers as the second coming of Jesus Christ.
County officials said on Friday that a three-day funeral was held for Mr Lee’s brother three weeks ago at a hall owned by the hospital, where the 92 new cases have just been confirmed.
Over 150 members of the Shincheonji sect have now been infected. It began with a 61-year-old woman, known as “Patient 31”, who developed a fever on the 10th of February, but attended at least four church services in Daegu (located some 27 kilometres north of Cheongdo) before being diagnosed. According to church officials, Patient 31 assumed she was suffering from the common cold and kept attending her Daegu church because she did not travel overseas.
The Shincheonji church, which claims it has about 200,000 followers in the country, has now closed all of its 74 churches around South Korea, and told followers to instead watch its online worship services on YouTube.