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Health minister warns of stronger disease control measures


The government is expected to take stronger disease control measures in the face of a sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases largely traceable to a church in Seoul.

Park Neung-hoo, the minister of health and welfare, said Tuesday that the current situation was “grave” and the authorities would review the possibility of stronger measures.

“In the Seoul metropolitan area, anyone can get infected, and we are seeing confirmed cases in a total of 12 major cities and provinces. We are concerned about infections spreading nationwide,” said Park, who is also the first deputy minister of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, in his opening remarks during a meeting at the headquarters.

On Monday, Park said the current situation represented the early stage of a resurgence in mass infections.

Daily community infection figures have been in the three digits for four consecutive days through Monday -- 103 on Friday, 155 on Saturday, 267 on Sunday and 188 on Monday.

“The mass infections at a church (Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul’s Seongbuk-gu) have spread through other churches, facilities used by many people and Liberation Day rallies,” Park said.

“The most important thing at this point is swift testing, and speed is what matters.”

Park asked members of the Sarang Jeil Church, as well as those who visited the church or attended the Aug. 15 rallies, to get tested for COVID-19 and abide by the self-isolation guidelines.

“Actions that do not comply with or obstruct health authorities’ measures threaten the safety of our community. To protect the health of the people, the government will take stringent actions against violations under related laws.”

Park also mentioned that the government is preparing more beds for critically ill patients as well as treatment centers for patients with mild symptoms. A shortage of beds is expected due to the sharp rise in the number of confirmed cases in and around Seoul.

“The biggest weapons that health authorities could trust in the long battle with COVID-19 have been the people’s cooperation and participation,” Park said.

“Please strictly abide by the disease control guidelines such as refraining from gathering, going out, wearing masks and keeping social distance.”

By Kim So-hyun (