South Korea reported 74 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, March 16. Out of these, 46 were related to a bizarre religious superstition followed by the River of Grace Community Church in Gyeonggi province.
The River of Grace Community Church in Gyeonggi province sprayed saltwater inside the followers' mouths out of the belief that it would help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. South China Morning Post reported. The church official sprayed the saltwater through a spray bottle, without disinfecting the nozzle, leading to 46 followers, including the pastor and his wife, being infected.
46 followers of Grace Community Church in South Korea test positive
"It's been confirmed that they put the nozzle of the spray bottle inside the mouth of a follower who was later confirmed as a patient, before they did likewise for other followers as well, without disinfecting the sprayer," said Lee Hee-young, head of Gyeonggi Province's coronavirus task force. "This made it inevitable for the virus to spread," he added.
The church has been closed and all those who were present at the church services were being tested. Apart from the 46 cases reported by the River of Grace Community Church, the Gyeonggi province has reported 25 other cluster cases, 15 at a church in Bucheon city, and 10 at a church in Suwon city.
Restrictions on religious gatherings in South Korea
Ever since coronavirus cases surged significantly in South Korea, restrictions were placed on public gatherings and religious events. Almost 60 percent of South Korea's Covid-19 cases are linked to Daegu's Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious sect, considered as a cult by many.
Majority of the country's 6,578 churches complied with the official decree to suspend gatherings, resorting to online prayers. But several churches have still haven't complied it, thus contributing to the rise in the number of cases.
As on Tuesday, March 17, South Korea reported 8,320 Covid-19 cases, along with 81 fatalities. The East Asian nation has emerged as a coronavirus success story, significantly bringing down the spread of the epidemic, by not converting the country into one big quarantine centre, a model adopted by several countries. Instead, it embarked upon large-scale testing of its citizens.