South Korea reported 813 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday in what the vice health minister called a “critical moment” in the country’s battle against the virus.

The new figures bring South Korea’s infected total up to 3,150 — the highest number outside of China, where the virus started. 17 people have died from coronavirus in South Korea so far. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 657 of the new cases were from southeastern Daegu city, and a further 79 from the nearby province of North Gyeongsang.

Daegu city is home to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus — a doomsday church at the heart of South Korea’s coronavirus epidemic. The KCDC believe that a 61-year-old member of the sect, known as “Patient 31,” triggered a “superspreader” event at the church’s Daegu branch after refusing to be tested in hospital despite presenting symptoms, and coming into close contact with over 1,000 churchgoers at several tightly packed services.

Health authorities have run tests on more than 210,000 members and 65,000 trainees of the church, Reuters reported, of which 3,300 have shown symptoms such as fever so far.


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