Coronavirus: South Korea church sprays followers with saltwater to 'kill the virus', ends up infecting 46
Panic over the coronavirus has given rise to false beliefs and remedies around the world, with many claiming "these particular processes" can prevent or cure the virus. But mostly these measures have done more harm than good, with a recent example from South Korea illustrating how blind belief can undo days of good work done by the government to fight the virus.
The country, which has done a marvelous job in containing the pandemic, saw a cluster of new cases after the leaders of The Grace River Church in Seongnam sprayed saltwater in the mouths of its followers claiming it can kill the virus.
The church located in the Gyeonggi Province sprayed the saltwater without disinfecting the nozzles and by using the same bottle.
The carelessness of the church authorities resulted in 46 followers of the church, including the pastor and his wife, contracting the coronavirus on March 13. The prayer gathering was attended by more than 100 followers earlier this month.
“It’s been confirmed that they put the nozzle of the spray bottle inside the mouth of a follower who was later confirmed as a patient, before they did likewise for other followers as well, without disinfecting the sprayer,” said Lee Hee-young, head of the province's coronavirus task force.
“This made it inevitable for the virus to spread,” he said. “They did so out of the false belief that saltwater kills the virus.”
All the churchgoers and followers are being tested and the church has been closed until further notice.
There are 8413 cases of coronavirus being tested positive with around 84 deaths and 1540 recoveries. South Korea was actually doing pretty well before this incident.
Raina MacIntyre, an emerging infectious disease scholar at the University of New South Wales, Sydney stated, “South Korea’s experience shows that diagnostic capacity at scale is key to epidemic control. Contact tracing is also very influential in epidemic control, as is case isolation.”
Since the saltwater incident, South Koreans authorities are on their feet, tracing all the churchgoers and their further contacts to avoid further spread.
“It is still too early to relax,” Prime Minister Chung Sye Kyun said at a regular briefing. “The government will concentrate its efforts on preventing cluster infections.”
Authorities have urged churches that continue to hold large gatherings to conduct temperature checks of their followers at the entry gates, and to ensure they wear face masks and sit sparsely. They have also urged churches to resort to online praying and suspend large gatherings.
In the initial days of the coronavirus, members of the secretive Christian group of Shincheonji Church were believed by many to have spread the virus in the country. Many of the positive cases were linked to the church, which some say is more like a cult. The group has apologized for its role in the outbreak and says is co-operating with authorities. However, officials say some members of the church still refuse to be tested.