S. Korea’s big churches reopen with designated seats, size limits, Latest World News - The New Paper

S. Korea’s big churches reopen with designated seats, size limits

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SEOUL: South Korea's large churches reopened yesterday, requiring worshippers to keep their distance and wear masks, after the government relaxed restrictions on religious gatherings, that had been aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Onnuri Church, one of the biggest in Seoul, required members to sign up online ahead of the service and sit in designated seats.

It also limited attendance to 700 in a hall with a capacity of 3,000 people, a church official said.

South Korea has extended its social distancing policy until May 5 but offered some relief for religious and sports facilities.

A secretive church, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was at the epicentre of South Korea's outbreak, with about half of the country's total infections of 10,728 linked to its members.

South Korea managed to curb the first major outbreak outside China with massive testing and aggressive contact tracing but there have been a series of small outbreaks involving churches and other clusters.

The countryyesterday reported 10 new cases, marking the eighth day when the number of new infections hovered around that level.

Wuhan, where the global coronavirus pandemic began, now has no remaining cases in its hospitals, a health official said yesterday.

"The latest news is that by April 26, the number of new coronavirus patients in Wuhan was at zero, thanks to the joint efforts of Wuhan and medical staff from around the country," National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said at a briefing.

The city had reported 46,452 cases, 56 per cent of the national total. It saw 3,869 fatalities, or 84 per cent of China's total.

Wuhan and the province of Hubei were put in lockdown near the end of January, with roads sealed, trains and planes cancelled and residents unable to move freely for more than two months.

The city is still testing residents regularly despite relaxing the restrictions.

The focus has since shifted to the northeast border province of Heilongjiang, which has seen many imported virus cases entering from Russia.

China's health authority had earlier reported 11 new cases on the mainland on Saturday, down from 12 the previous day, with no fatalities. - REUTERS