Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(LEAD) 8 new coronavirus cases reported at Catholic church in Goyang

National 17:33 July 08, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 8-10)

SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- Eight novel coronavirus cases have been reported at a Catholic church northwest of Seoul, raising concerns over another cluster infection at a religious institution in South Korea.

According to health authorities on Wednesday, a total of eight congregants and their family members at Wondang Catholic Church, located in Goyang, just northwest of the capital, have tested positive for the virus.

The city government of Goyang has closed the church and conducted virus tests on 463 people, including congregants of the church. As of 5 p.m., 10 people are awaiting their results, with the rest of them testing negative.

The infections are the first COVID-19 cases from the Catholic community in South Korea since February, when about 20 Catholics in the southeast of the country, who made a group pilgrimage to Israel, contracted the virus.

Quarantine officials conduct coronavirus tests at Wondang Catholic Church in Goyang, north of Seoul, on July 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

Quarantine officials conduct coronavirus tests at Wondang Catholic Church in Goyang, north of Seoul, on July 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

The central government said it will ban small church gatherings and catering as almost half of the country's new infections in recent days have come from those kinds of events.

"All churches across the country should comply with key virus prevention guidelines in all events," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a regular government meeting on the response to COVID-19.

"All small church gatherings and catering, except for Sunday services, will be prohibited, and churches should run a mandatory entry log system," he said. "If they break the guidelines, churches can be fined as well as congregations."

Starting from Friday, churches should use QR-code based entry logs to keep records of worshipers who participate in services, while congregations will be barred from singing or praying loudly.

The mandatory registration system, using the matrix-typed barcode, has been implemented for entertainment facilities, such as bars and clubs, to make it easier to track people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Health authorities said the strict safety measures in place for Protestant churches can be expanded to Catholic churches and Buddhist temples in the future if necessary.

South Korea reported 63 more cases of new coronavirus on Wednesday, with the total reaching at 13,244.

Since end-February, when the country was experiencing the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Catholic churches suspended on-site Masses and offered online services. Protestant churches and the Buddhist temples joined the move.

However, in May, religious institutions emerged as new infection clusters as they resumed face-to-face gatherings and events.

Cases traced to a major Protestant church in Seoul's southwestern ward of Gwanak reached nearly 40, while 25 people related to a large Protestant church in Suwon, which has more than 9,000 congregants, tested positive for COVID-19.

Nearly 100 cases have been related to Gwangleug Temple in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul.

Consequently, the Catholic archdiocese in Gwangju has indefinitely put off public masses, as the Gwangju metropolitan government strengthened social distancing guidelines to the second level of the three-grade system.

Two major Protestant church groups in South Korea also urged churches to suspend and scale down summer events in the coming weeks.


Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!