Authorities on alert as mass virus outbreak infects 127 at missionary school

26-Jan-2021 Intellasia | Koreaherald | 6:52 AM Print This Post

State and local health authorities remained on heightened alert Monday as a new coronavirus outbreak at an unauthorised missionary school reported over the weekend has infected more than 120 students and faculty.

The number of infected people at IEM School, an unauthorised Christian missionary training school in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, stood at 127, according to health authorities. The outbreak was first reported on Saturday.

The school is a boarding facility that recruits teenagers aged 16 to 18 to primarily train them as international Christian missionaries, although they also teach general curriculum, such as Korean, English, math and science. The school is operated by a missionary society called IM.

According to authorities, the small living space relative to the number of students was critical to the fast speed of transmissions.

According to the Daejeon city government, the 120 students were living in extreme tight quarters, with between seven and 20 students assigned to a single dorm room. Dining tables also reportedly had no partitions installed.

School administrators were also apparently negligent despite knowing the risks, taking no quarantine-related actions or conducting tests despite seeing its first symptomatic patient on January 12.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Gwangju, 140 kilometers southwest of Daejeon, said they were looking into whether a separate cluster infection at an unauthorised missionary training centre there was linked to the IEM School outbreak. The facility in Gwangju has so far reported 23 patients.

Authorities are especially concerned that the outbreak could explode in a way similar to earlier high profile ones centered on other religious institutionsthe Shincheonji Church of Jesus and the BTJ centre for All Nations.

Prime minister Chung Sye-kyun ordered health authorities to deal swiftly with the outbreak.

“We’re concerned that the outbreak could escalate into the second Shincheonji or BTJ crisis,” Chung said during an interagency meeting on the COVID-19 response held at the government complex in Seoul.

Chung stressed the importance of a “speedy response” to such mass outbreaks. “We spent too much time in dealing with the Shoncheonji and BTJ outbreaks, and we cannot let such a situation repeat,” he said.

He also ordered authorities to fully mobilise all capacities to prevent additional transmission cases and also asked the culture and education ministries and local governments to carry out antivirus measures as well.


Category: Korea

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