From France to Malaysia and S Korea to India, how religious groups aggravated Coronavirus epidemic

Just when Tablighi Jamaat-linked cases were surging in Malaysia, the group planned similar events in Pakistan, Indonesia and India.

As the coronavirus pandemic is panning out throughout the world, several religious congregations -- from France to Malaysia and from India to South Korea -- have served as disease multipliers. Such religious gatherings have played key role in driving up the novel coronavirus cases in all these countries.

Shincheonji Church of Jesus (South Korea)

Shincheonji Church of Jesus leader
Shincheonji Church of Jesus leader kneels in front of press to apologize for coronavirus negligence Twitter/Laura Bicker

Initially, coronavirus cases seemed stable in South Korea, until the case of Patient 31 emerged. Patient 31 -- a 61-year old woman who had links with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu -- had earlier refused to get tested.

By the time she was diagnosed, the woman had attended several religious congregations and infected several of his co-religionists. Although by adopting the strategy of widespread testing, the country has put a brake on the rising cases, half of such cases can be traced back to the fringe Christian group.

The church, believed to be a cult by many, was established in 1984, by the now 81-years old Lee Man-hee. Its tradition requires worshipers to sit very closely, that might have led to the virus' quick spread. They then traveled to various parts of the country, thus infecting others.

As on April 6, South Korea has reported 10,284 coronavirus cases and 186 deaths.

Christian Open Door Church (France)

Christian Open Door Church
A 2017 congregation of Christian Open Door Church Wikimedia commons

Until the Christian Open Door Church congregation at Mullhouse, France, the country had reported just 12 cases of novel coronavirus. Cases rose swiftly, with 2,500 cases and 17 Covid-19 fatalities, having links with the five-days church congregation that started on February 18, Reuters reporters.

Virus was carried outside of France by foreign worshipers, some of whom traveled thousands of miles to attend the event. Cases were reported from Switzerland in Europe to Burkina Faso in West Africa and from Guyana in Latin America to Corsica in the Mediterranean.

In fact, the first case in Corica was a 70-year old woman, who had attended the Mullhouse congregation. "At the time, we viewed COVID as something that was far off", said Jonathan Peterschmitt, son of the lead pastor and grandson of the church's founder. The church was founded in 1966 by Jean Petershmitt.

As on April 6, France has confirmed 92,839 cases along with 8,078 fatalities.

Tablighi Jamat (Malaysia)

2009 Malaysian congregation of Tablighi Jamaat
2009 Tablighi Jamaat congregation, Malaysia Wikimedia commons

The Tablighi Jamaat religious congregation in Malaysia, held late in February, attracted about 16,000 delegates from 30 countries, and soon emerged as the coronavirus hotspot in south-east Asia. As on March 20, over 620 Malaysian delegates, including the event's organizer, tested positive for Covid-19.

As many as 22 Cambodian pilgrims and several Thai and Brunei nationals have also contracted the disease, New York Times reported.

Founded in 1926 in north India, Tablighi Jamat has millions of followers, mostly in South and South-east Asia. The group encourages adherents to live their lives as in the time of Prophet Mohammad. During the group's religious congregation, thousands of followers live in close proximity, mostly in the mosque, where they eat and pray together.

Tablighi Jamat (India)

Just when the Jamat linked cases were surging in Malaysia, the group was planning similar events in Pakistan, Indonesia and India. While the congregations were called off in Pakistan and Indonesia, the group went forward with its gathering at Delhi, India, which also serves as the group's headquarter.

The congregation, held between March 1 and 15 has led to a significant surge in country's Covid-19 cases. The country has reported 4,314 cases, 118 of whom have died, according to Worldmeter's tally.

Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the country's health ministry, said: "The doubling rate of covid-19 cases in India is currently 4.1 days. This is due to Tablighi Jamaat, the additional cases are being reported now. Had this event not taken place, the doubling rate would have been 7.4 days", livemintreported.

As on Saturday, 30% cases reported in India had links with the Tablighi Jamat, Times of India reported.

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