Gov’t tracks down Shincheonji adherents and many feel ill

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Gov’t tracks down Shincheonji adherents and many feel ill

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Government employees make telephone calls to adherents of the Shincheonji religion to ask if they are feeling any symptom of the novel coronavirus in the main conference hall of the Daejeon Metropolitan Government Office on Thursday. Health authorities tried to get in touch with all believers after the Shincheonji sect handed over contact information. [NEWS1]

Over half of some 200,000 followers of the Shincheonji church in Korea outside Daegu have been contacted by local government offices and asked about possible symptoms of the coronavirus as of Thursday midnight, the government announced Friday morning, and more than 1,600 said they were feeling ill.

They were told to self-quarantine in their homes to await testing, said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip.

Health officials said they were going down a list of 194,781 Shincheonji worshippers in Korea outside Daegu, and that 114,068 (58.6 percent) had been contacted by Thursday midnight, of which 1,638 (1.4 percent) answered they felt they were coming down with symptoms of the virus.

The list of 194,781 Shincheonji worshippers in Korea did not include some 9,300 followers in Daegu — where a large Shincheonji church building has become a focus of the epidemiological investigation — because Daegu officials obtained that list earlier and have been going down the directory separately.

From Daegu’s 9,300 Shincheonji followers, about 1,300 are known to have reported symptoms, and they are undergoing tests as well.

Any new positive test results for the Shincheonji worshippers will be added to the nation’s total infections toll over the weekend, Kim said, likely leading to more steep hikes tomorrow and the day after.

On Friday morning, 256 more infections were counted by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 182 in Daegu, 49 in the surrounding province of North Gyeongsang in the southeastern part of the country, and six in Seoul. That brings Korea’s total number of cases to 2,022.

The death toll stood at 13, unchanged from Thursday.

The last coronavirus patient in Korea to have died was a 74-year-old Shincheonji worshipper in Daegu, who was waiting for an empty hospital bed at his home when his symptoms worsened Thursday morning. He died on his way to the hospital that day.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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