Another church-related outbreak . . .
South Korea warned today that the country has hit another nationwide crisis as the number of daily new COVID-19 cases has been increasing sharply. On Sunday, it reported 266 new cases, continuing the trend of triple-digit new cases since August 14. The latest outbreak has spread to all 17 regions of the country. As of today, a total of 875 new cases have been traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, another epicentre of the virus. South Korean officials are asking citizens to adhere to social distancing rules and strictly abide by current measures to stop the spread of the further spread of COVID-19.
Face masks become mandatory in Seoul . . .
For the first time, Seoul city officials have mandated the wearing of face masks in both public indoor and outdoor places, except while eating and drinking. On Sunday, South Korea also imposed Level Two (out of three) COVID restrictions, including enhanced social distancing. Twelve types of high-risk businesses, including in-person church meetings, internet cafes, nightclubs, and buffets, are now closed. Gatherings of more than 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors are also not allowed. Health authorities said they are considering enforcing Level Three social-distancing rules, which include closing down schools, unless the spread of new cases can be brought under control.
Challenges over the right to religious practice . . .
At a press conference on Saturday, the Sarang Jeil Church’s lawyers accused senior government officials, including Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, of abuse of authority, illegally gathering private information, and obstructing the right to religious practice by not allowing in-person services at churches. Canada faced a similar situation in May when the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms went to court to fight restrictions on religious services and the religious rights of a religious group in Ontario that must pray together several times a day. As the pandemic drags on, the intersection of religious rights and public health will be an area to watch.
- The Korea Herald: Moon calls for cooperation in anti-virus fight to avoid de-facto lockdown
- National Post: Legal group threatens court challenge over right of Ontario Orthodox Jews to worship during pandemic
- Yonhap News Agency: Church blamed for coronavirus spike to seek charges against gov’t officials