The pastor must helpNew Covid-19 cases have reached over 1,000 in less than a week. From Sarang Jeil Church in Seongbuk District, northern Seoul, under politically active Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, 438 patients have been identified since its first case was reported on Aug. 12. The church has spread the virus in areas outside Seoul to become the hotbed for a new wave of infections.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) noted there was a faster spread from Sarang Jeil Church, and are expecting worse results than the outbreak from Shincheonji Church in Daegu in February. The fatality risk is also greater as churchgoers in the capital are mostly elderly.
Of around 4,000 followers of Sarang Jeil Church identified by quarantine authorities, 2,500 have been tested and 3,200 isolated. But about 590 remain unreachable. Another 200 are not responding to calls. That means about 800 could pose potential danger to society.
The followers live all over the country and also frequent churches in their communities. Some of the local governments have even taken forcible administrative actions. But after the church went ahead with anti-government rallies in downtown Seoul in the two recent weekends, ten among the crowd have tested positive. Some of them refused to oblige with quarantine measures and ran away.
The influence of Rev. Jun is mighty in the church. While out on bail, he led the rally in Gwanghwamun on Aug. 15, without wearing a face mask. He has since tested positive for Covid-19. As the organizer estimates about 50,000 attended the rally, many churchgoers could have been infected. Yet they disobey the government’s quarantine order on political grounds.
Their argument of political oppression is unlikely to draw sympathy. Regardless of their disagreement with the government, they must cooperate with quarantine measures as they can jeopardize public health and safety. Jun must hand over a precise contact list of church members and urge them to fully cooperate with quarantine authorities. That is the practice of Christianity and civilian duty to the society.
The government must humbly admit to its hastiness of stimuli actions to spur domestic demand and consumption during the summer peak season despite the virus risk. Infections surged during the long weekend, including a temporary holiday on Monday. The government responded passively even as daily new cases jumped to three-digits. To take no more risk, authorities must consider implementing the highest grade in social distancing measures.