The Shincheonji Daegu Church, where Patient No. 31 participated in worship service, has been found to be the epicenter of super spread of the COVID-19 virus. An epidemiological survey by the South Korean health authorities has revealed that 98 (63 percent) of 159 confirmed patients nationwide visited the church or came into contact with people in its congregation. Of the 4,475 followers at the church, who are undergoing additional epidemiological surveys, as many as 544 said they had suspected symptoms such as fever or coughing. An outbreak that was sparked by a religious gathering is feared to cause mass local transmission of the infectious disease.
The health authorities are having difficulties as they could not reach or contact more than 400 followers of the church. The fact Patient No. 31 visited Cheongdo County, North Gyeongsang Province was only revealed belatedly through tracking of GPS signals from the patient’s mobile phone. Since the entire nation is experiencing a national crisis, Shincheonji religious followers should voluntarily report symptoms and self-quarantine at home, while fully cooperating with the authorities in quarantine efforts. However, excessive criticism and identifying online and stigmatizing them could pressure them to go into deeper hiding. Citizens should not attack infectious disease patients even for the sake of ensuring the success of quarantine efforts.
There is a good chance that not only religious gatherings but also indoor public events may cause mass spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. In Singapore, one out of three confirmed cases was infected with COVID-19 at a church. The Korean health authorities are advising people to cancel uncritical one-off meetings and to postpone indoor events. Citizens are advised to voluntarily cooperate in such exercise.
Since local epidemics have become a reality, the government’s loose quarantine campaign will only have limited effect. Citizens are advised to fully cooperate in quarantine efforts and thoroughly put into practice personal hygiene measures. In order to prevent our own community, people now should use extra caution in the wake of an epidemic. If you feel light symptoms, you should self-quarantine at home, and if you develop suspected symptoms such as fever or coughing, you should visit a special treatment center exclusively for the disease infection. If you directly visit an emergency room, it could result in the complete shutdown of the ER, which in turn can lead other patients with severe illness to suffer damage. People should demonstrate mature citizenship by wearing mask, and washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid using public transportation and public facilities. These are among the most powerful measures to contain the spread of the virus and overcome the epidemic.