S.Korea tracing church goers, confines troops to bases as virus spreads

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SEOUL — South Korea reported a three-digit increase in novel coronavirus cases for a fifth consecutive day, as authorities scrambled to trace hundreds of members of a church congregation, and the military locked down bases to counter the spread of the virus.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 246 new cases as of Monday midnight, two days after the reimposition of stricter social distancing curbs in the Seoul metropolitan area.

South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but it has suffered repeated spikes in infections and the total number of cases stood at 15,761, including 306 deaths.

As of Tuesday, at least 383 infections have been linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, 10 of whom were confirmed to have attended anti-government demonstrations over the past two weekends in downtown Seoul, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing on Monday.

The authorities were contact tracing hundreds more members of the congregation, to tell them to self-quarantine and get tested as they posed the highest transmission risk, said Kim.

Two new cases were reported among the military, bringing the total on military bases to 88, the defense ministry said.