South Korea has actually seen without a doubt the highest varieties of coronavirus cases beyond China – within a week confirmed cases leapt from a few dozen to more than900
The nation had appeared well ready and so the increasing numbers have numerous asking how this took place – and whether a similar abrupt break out could take place in other places.
In South Korea, more than half of the Covid-19 cases have been linked to a spiritual sect and its critics state the group’s deceptive nature helped the infection go undiscovered.
Why did the variety of cases surge so suddenly?
Authorities have determined the fringe Christian group Shincheonji Church as being at the heart of this outbreak.
At their services in the south-eastern city of Daegu, members likely contaminated one another and then fanned out around the country, apparently undetected.
South Korean health officials think that a 61- year-old member of the sect who recently tested positive for the infection was among the first to be infected and is now at the centre of their investigation.
The female patient at first declined to be moved to a hospital to be checked and is understood to have actually gone to several church events before testing favorable.
Any large event in a restricted space she would have gone to – like a church service – would have likely led to further infections, health officials say.
The director southern Korean Centre for Illness Control, Jung Eun-kyeong, suggested at a press briefing that “there is a possibility that the qualities of lots of people sitting close together in a very confined area and holding service for more than an hour” would have resulted in “a couple of who were exposed infecting numerous other infectees”.
” The infection preys on our social practices and interactions,” transmittable disease professional Dr Leong Hoe Nam told the BBC.
” There may be practices within a church – like weeping or the belting of tunes – that would motivate bead transmission.”
Another cluster connected with the sect is at a medical facility in Cheongdo where a large number of sect fans went to a funeral of the founder’s sibling over three days at the end of January.
South Korea sees sharp increase in infections
Church communities in other nations have also become virus break out clusters, though in much smaller sized numbers than in South Korea. All of them have actually suspended services and community gatherings to suppress the spread.
So why was it not found earlier?
Since the outbreak started in China in December, one of the key questions has actually been how early the infection can be found – and whether it can be spread out by individuals who don’t yet show any symptoms, which would make it really hard to curb the spread.
While Chinese health authorities have actually long alerted people can be contagious before they show any signs, the World Health Company has so far not verified that.
South Korea was currently on alert over the infection before the clusters were found. If people probably were careful and paid heightened attention to each others’ health, does this then suggest that individuals without signs were able to spread out the infection?
” It’s a contentious question,” states Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Break Out Alert and Reaction Network at the WHO, told the BBC.
” What we can state is that it spreads out early – whereas Sars (serious intense breathing syndrome) for example spread late in the disease.”
He describes that any contaminated individuals will have the virus on their throat before they reveal any signs. Without the signs – without coughing – they are also much less likely to spread out the infection.
Basically, in order to spread out the virus extensively, an infected person would require to be coughing, i.e. coughing on their hands, on surface areas or on other people.
” At worst, the infectivity in a contaminated person without signs is much lower,” Mr Fisher discusses. “And to be clear – the asymptomatic ones are not the huge spreaders. It is only when you do have symptoms that you can spread it easily.”
What do we know about Shincheonji?
Officially called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testament, the group was founded in the 1980 s and claims to have around 250,000 followers.
During services, the members are supposedly asked to sit and kneel really near to one another and continue to gather after the service is over.
The fringe Christian mega church is accused by some critics of being a cult.
It is common to conceal your subscription of Shincheonji Church as they are not a popular sect in South Korea, states the BBC’s South Korea correspondent Laura Bicker.
There are also text messages signaling locals to confirmed cases in their area telling you where they’ve been and when.
Unlike Hong Kong or Singapore, there had been very little panic buying in South Korea till the start of the week.
Yet when stores in Daegu announced they had new stock of masks showing up, thousands queued for hours in the hope of getting one.
Reporting by the BBC’s Andreas Illmer.