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(2nd LD) Incheon reports 29 church-related virus cases

All News 20:36 June 01, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES figure and details in headline, paras 1-2, 4, 7)

INCHEON, June 1 (Yonhap) -- At least 29 infections traced to a local church were reported in the western port city of Incheon on Monday, raising alarm over additional new coronavirus cases in the wider metropolitan area.

They include 16 pastors, five family members and eight churchgoers from 15 different churches. Of them, at least 18 people attended a meeting at a church in the Incheon ward of Michuhol on Thursday, according to city officials.

The participants, who came from small churches in Incheon and nearby Gyeonggi Province, are assumed to have contracted the infectious virus from a 57-year-old pastor who attended the same event.

Campaigners promoting quarantine guidelines walk past a church in Incheon, west of Seoul, on June 1, 2020, following group infections reported at the religious facility. (Yonhap)

The health authorities suspected pastors from the small churches visited each other's churches for bible study and worship services. Some of them gathered almost every day in cramped spaces, and did not comply with quarantine guidelines, like wearing masks and keeping distance from each other.

"Most of the patients were found not to have worn face masks during the church event," a Michuhol Ward official said, adding that the church did not hold a Sunday service over the weekend.

Authorities have yet to identify the infection route of the 57-year-old, who started showing symptoms Thursday.

Officials said they plan to tighten inspections of a total of 4,234 religious facilities in the city. They are also considering imposition of a set of mandatory quarantine rules, such as keeping entry logs of all worshipers, banning the provision of food and designating a point person who oversees the quarantine process.

South Korea reported 35 new cases Monday, bringing its total COVID-19 caseload to 11,503.

Of the 35 cases, 30 cases were local infections that were reported in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. The remaining were imported cases.

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