The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in South Korea hit 2,337 on Friday, breaking the 2,000 mark in 39 days since the first case was reported in the nation. The confirmed cases are growing exponentially, as the 2,000 mark was reached just two days after exceeding 1,000. The trend of COVID-19 epidemics changed significantly in South Korea on Feb. 18, after Patient No. 31, a Shincheonji follower, was identified. Since many of the cases occurred in around certain regions and groups including Shincheonji Daegu Church and Cheongdo Daenam Hospital, the number are surging at a frightening speed.
Worship services or religious congregations, where many believers gather in a confined space to seek blessing and pray, offers an ideal environment to transmit viruses including COVID-19. For this reason, the government issued an urgent appeal to the religious community on Friday to refrain from holding indoor and outdoor religious gatherings. “A major watershed for further spread and prolongation of the COVID-19 epidemics will be this weekend and next weekend,” said Culture, Sports and Welfare Minister Park Yang-woo.
Catholic churches and Buddhist, including the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism, have already decided to suspend all gatherings and masses for the time being, while many Protestant churches are introducing online worship services, joining in the effort to prevent the spread of infection. The Yeouido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, one of the largest churches, decided on Friday to replace its worship services scheduled on this and next Sundays with online services. However, concerns are still mounting as some large churches with tens of thousands of followers are trying to push ahead with their Sunday worship services. The Headquarters of National Coalition to Seek President Moon Jae-in’s Resignation,” led by Pastor Jeon Kwang-hoon, president of the Christian Council of Korea, also vowed to hold a large-scale rally in the form of united worship service at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul Sunday.
When it comes to infectious diseases, the more people gather, the higher the chance for the disease to spread. Infectious disease and preventive medicine experts recommend minimizing movement and keeping a safe distance from other people as a principle to prevent local spread of infectious diseases in the communities. The distance that can be considered safe from human-to-human transmission is two meters. Right at this moment, thousands of medical professionals are struggling to fight the disease at the frontier of quarantine campaigns, while countless people are looking forward to returning to their normal daily life as soon as possible, in the face of difficulties including treatment, self-isolation, and economic recession. It can be quite frustrating, but for the sake of the safety of my family and neighbors, let us try and keep a safe distance from others at least for the time being to prevent the COVID-19 crisis from getting prolonged.