South Korea counted its fourth straight day of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus cases on Monday as the government urged people to stay home and curb travel.
The government had drawn up a special holiday on Monday with hopes of spurring domestic consumption. But as infections in the capital region increase, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo urged people to stay home and for residents in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province to avoid visiting other parts of the country for two weeks.
The 197 new cases announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the nation’s total to 15,515, including 305 deaths. The 279 new cases reported on Sunday was South Korea’s biggest single-day jump since early May amid concerns about an outbreak in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
The KCDC said 167 of the new cases came from the greater capital region, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. Health workers have been struggling to track infections, but churches have emerged as a major source.
More than 300 have been linked to a northern Seoul church led by a conservative pastor who has frequently led anti-government protests against liberal President Moon Jae-in, including a rally attended by thousands of demonstrators in downtown Seoul on Saturday despite official pleas for them to stay home.
The government is pressing charges against the pastor, Jun Kwang-hun, for allegedly disrupting anti-virus efforts by falsely reporting the church’s members and discouraging followers from getting tested. Health workers have so far tested 2,000 of the church’s members and plan to test 2,000 more.