Korea sees 52 more cases, bringing total to 156

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Korea sees 52 more cases, bringing total to 156

An additional 52 people were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus overnight, bringing Korea’s total number of confirmed cases on Friday to 156.

Health officials announced 38 of the new cases occurred in Daegu, three each in Seoul and North Gyeongsang, two in South Gyeongsang and one each in North and South Chungcheong, Gyeonggi, North Jeolla, Jeju and Gwangju.

The majority of the new cases – 39 – involved believers of the Shincheonji religion, confirming concerns that members of the controversial Christian sect may be spreading the disease after it first circulated between worshippers at a religious service in Daegu this month.

According to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), of the 13 other cases, one was linked to the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo County, North Gyeongsang, where Korea’s first coronavirus victim - 65-year-old man also suffering from schizophrenia – died on Thursday.

An additional 2,707 people are currently undergoing testing for the virus, out of 14,660 designated for testing by the KCDC.

With Shincheonji church branches deemed to be the source of the contagion around the country, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon announced in an emergency briefing Friday that all of the sect’s churches in Seoul would be closed off for disinfection.

Park also declared a temporary ban on all mass public rallies at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza and the Cheonggye Plaza – the three most frequently used public spaces in the city for demonstrations – “in order to protect the elderly who are vulnerable to infectious diseases.”

Violators of the ban, which is founded on an article in Korea’s Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act allowing the government to restrict mass gatherings for quarantine purposes, will be fined 300,000 won, according to city officials.

“Certain groups say they plan to carry out mass rallies [regardless of the ban] so there is a need for special measures,” Park said. “The city will inform all groups planning mass external rallies about the ban, and will ask for the support of the metropolitan police.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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