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Church leader arrested in South Korea amid spate of virus infections

World News | Published:

Prosecutors are investigating claims that quarantine measures had been avoided.

Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, attends at a press conference (KIm Ju-sung/AP)

South Korean prosecutors arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s anti-virus response after thousands of worshippers were infected in February and March.

Prosecutors in the central city of Suwaon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and under-reported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Mr Lee over concerns that he could tamper with evidence.

Mr Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are cooperating with health authorities.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Kim Young-eun, speaking for the church, said it will do its best so that “the truth is clearly proved in court”.

More than 5,200 of the South Korea’s 14,336 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the church so far.

Its branch in the southern city of Daegu emerged as the biggest cluster after infections spiked in late February.

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Health authorities used an aggressive test-and-quarantine programme to contain the outbreak in Daegu and nearby towns by April, but the country has seen a resurgence of the virus in the Seoul metropolitan area since late May.

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 31 newly confirmed cases.

At least 23 of the, were tied to international arrivals.

The country recently reported dozens of infections among South Korean constructions airlifted out of virus-ravaged Iraq and crew members of Russia-flagged cargo ships docked in the ports of Busan and Incheon.

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A health worker prepares to collect nasal swab samples for Covid-19 tests at a mobile testing site in Hyderabad, India (Mahesh Kumar A/AP)
A health worker prepares to collect nasal swab samples for Covid-19 tests at a mobile testing site in Hyderabad, India (Mahesh Kumar A/AP)

India, meanwhile, recorded the steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections.

The country’s health ministry on Saturday also reported 764 additional deaths for a total of 36,511.

India’s civil aviation ministry delayed resumption of international flights by another month until August 31.

But it will continue to allow several international carriers from the United States, Europe and the Middle East to operate special flights to evacuate stranded nationals.

India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan said that India achieved more than one million recoveries with active cases only one-third of the total.

India is now conducting more than 640,000 tests in 24 hours, taking cumulative tests across the country to nearly 1.9 million, he said.

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