The coronavirus outbreak in South Korea is so severe that the government’s culture minister on Friday asked churches and other religious bodies to stop gathering until it is contained.
South Korea has the largest outbreak outside of China, with 2,337 cases. More than 500 cases were reported on Thursday alone, the country’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
“This weekend and next weekend are expected to be critical points in [containing] the spread of COVID-19 and [preventing] the situation's prolongation,” South Korean’s Culture Minister Park Yang-woo said Friday.
“I earnestly ask [such groups] to refrain from any religious services and gatherings for a while in order to prevent further coronavirus infections and the extension of the situation,” he added.
Already, the Catholic church in the country has suspended mass.
Seoul’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, considered the largest church in the world by membership (approximately 800,000), suspended public services and said it would launch online services for members, Yonhap News reported.
Seoul’s Myungsung Church — a Presbyterian congregation with 80,000 members — suspended services after two members, including a pastor, came down with coronavirus.
Meanwhile, scientists at Israel’s MIGAL Galilee Research Institute say they will have a vaccine to coronavirus within a few weeks, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development,” MIGAL CEO David Zigdon said.
The vaccine, he told The Post, could “achieve safety approval in 90 days.”
The vaccine will be taken orally, Zigdon said.
“We are currently in intensive discussions with potential partners that can help accelerate the in-human trials phase and expedite completion of final-product development and regulatory activities,” he said.
Israel Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said he is “confident there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat.”
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.