A little-known Christian cult has been pinpointed as a high cluster culprit which is partly responsible for the current wave of infections sweeping through South Korea. The tiny rural church was the epicenter of at least 241 infections officials told Reuters on Wednesday. South Korea reported a new daily record of 4,116 cases for Tuesday and battles a spike in serious cases straining hospitals.
The church is headed by a controversial pastor who pokes eyes of the congregation in order to drive out secular desire. The incident began in a small town of 427 residents in the city of Cheonan, south of the capital city of Seoul. Officials have confirmed that the town is under lockdown. Many of the infected are above 60 years old, with just 17 people out of the infected having been vaccinated.
The cult has been propagating anti-government and anti-vaccine beliefs which may have accelerated the infections, according to the health officials. This is similar in spirit to the Shincheonj church at the centre of the first major coronavirus epidemic outside China early 2020, with at least 5,227 people linked to its 310,000 followers infected after attending a service in the city of Daegu.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a COVID-19 response meeting on Wednesday that the situation in Seoul was critical enough to re-impose lockdown measures and restrictions, which had only just begun to relax under the "Living With Covid-19" plan enacted by the government after reaching vaccination goals. 71% of the ICU beds were filled up nationwide and 83.7% in capital Seoul and neighbouring areas alone, Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, told a briefing, stressing ministry efforts to secure more beds with administrative order.
South Korea has fully vaccinated 79.1% of its 52 million people, while just 4.1% have been given a booster dose.