South Korea closes churches when the coronavirus count exceeds 3,500

SEOUL: The churches closed in South Korea on Sunday with many online services in place, as authorities struggled to curb public meetings, with 376 new infections leading to 3,526 cases.

That happened one day after the biggest daily jump of 813 cases in the battle of South Korea with the largest outbreak of viruses outside of China, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Korea (KCDC), which will update the numbers later in the day.

The death toll of 17 has not changed since Saturday, he added.

In Seoul, the capital, about a dozen faithful were rejected from Yoido's Full Gospel Church, which delivered a sermon for its 560,000 followers on YouTube, filmed with a small choir instead of the 200 members and the orchestra of 60 members.

I had heard there would be no service, but I only came to check that I live nearby, but yes, it is very empty, said one of them, Song Young-koo, when he left the largest church in South Korea.

It is a wise decision to do it online, since the virus would spread easily in mass meetings and churches cannot be an exception.

Of the new cases, 333 were from the city of Daegu, in the southeast, the location of a church in the center of the outbreak, and 26 from the nearby province of North Gyeongsang, KCDC said.

Health authorities have urged South Koreans to refrain from attending religious services and political events and staying indoors this weekend, warning of a critical moment in the battle against the virus.

For the first time in its 236 years of history, the Catholic Church of South Korea decided to stop the masses in more than 1,700 places across the country. Buddhist temples have also canceled the events, while the main Christian churches celebrated online services.

In Yongsan, in downtown Seoul, a notice outside the great Samil Presbyterian Church informed parishioners that all meetings had been canceled, with the parking area closed.

HELP FOR NORTH KOREA

The president called for unity and promised greater efforts, including an additional budget, to combat the outbreak, in a speech for the 101st anniversary of a movement to gain independence from Japanese colonial rule.

The outbreak may threaten our lives temporarily, but it cannot break our unity and hope, Moon said in the speech.

Moon proposed joint efforts with North Korea to prevent an outbreak in the neighbor and improve medical care.

North Korea has not confirmed any cases, but imposed a one-month quarantine for those with symptoms, and state media said its leader held a meeting on stricter measures.

The crisis scared the commercial and financial markets, which led Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and LG Display to temporarily close one plant each and encourage the BTS boy band to cancel a world tour scheduled for April.

More neighbors suspended flights and banned visitors from South Korea.

In a statement, the Seoul Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha asked Washington to avoid excessive actions that could unnecessarily reduce exchanges between the two countries, in a phone call on Sunday with the deputy secretary of the United States State.

The request came after the United States advised Americans not to travel to affected regions, such as Daegu.

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