Fringe Religious Group Linked to S. Korea Outbreak

'Patient 31' infected dozens at church services
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2020 8:16 AM CST
Fringe Religious Group Linked to S. Korea Outbreak
Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant at the Agricultural and Wholesale Products Center in Daegu, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.   (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)

South Korea has been gripped by coronavirus fear after what officials call a "super-spreading event' in Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city. Authorities announced Thursday that another 53 cases had been detected, bringing the total to 104. At least 70 of the cases have been linked to "Patient 31," a 61-year-old woman who attended crowded church services in Daegu after developing symptoms. Residents say the streets of the city are now empty. "It's like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city," resident Kim Geun-woo tells Reuters. "It looks like a zombie apocalypse." South Korea reported its first coronavirus death Thursday. More:

  • A fringe religious group. "Patient 31" attended services at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a fringe group whose founder claims to be the second coming of Jesus and says he was sent to save followers from an apocalypse, the Washington Post reports. The church, also known as the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, denies being "the main culprit of coronavirus transmissions," but says it has shut down its branch in the city. Daegu's mayor says 1,000 people who attended services with the woman have been told to self-quarantine.

  • China reports dramatic fall in new cases. China said Thursday that there had been just 394 new COVID-19 cases reported in the country in the previous 24 hours, a dramatic fall from the number reported in previous days. The New York Times, however, reports that the fall appears to be due to China changing the way cases are counted and undoing the change that led to reports of a dramatic rise in infections last week. Chinese officials say that from now on, cases will only be considered confirmed if genetic testing identifies the virus. China also reported another 114 deaths linked to the virus Thursday.
  • More cases in Iran. Iran announced Thursday that three more coronavirus cases had been detected in the city of Qom, and that two people diagnosed earlier had died, the AP reports. The country's health minister said 60 Iranian students had been evacuated from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, but they had all been released from quarantine after 14 days.
  • Chinese manufacturers struggle. In what one logistics expert calls "death by a thousand cuts," Chinese manufacturers struggling to reopen factories are having to deal with critical staff shortages and major disruptions to supply chains, the South China Morning Post reports.
  • New quarantine for cruise passengers. Passengers finally allowed to leave the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan are beginning new 14-day quarantine periods in their home countries, the BBC reports. More than 150 passengers have returned to Australia and entered quarantine, and a group of more than 50 passengers has returned to Hong Kong.
(Two Japanese passengers from the Diamond Princess have died.)

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