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Preemptive COVID-19 tests ordered for missionary society, as cluster infections near 300

15:02 January 27, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- A Christian missionary society has been ordered or advised to conduct coronavirus tests for people at all of its affiliated schools and facilities in South Korea, government officials said Wednesday, as a cluster of COVID-19 infections tied to a subsidiary school has so far infected nearly 300.

According to the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, a government agency, the number of infected people in the latest virus cluster traced to the International Education Mission (IEM) School in the central city of Daejeon, an unauthorized school run by local Christian missionary society International Mission (IM), rose to 297 at six facilities as of 10 p.m. Tuesday.

IEM School students and instructors, who tested positive for COVID-19 while attending a winter retreat at a church in Hongcheon, southeast of Seoul, prepare to board a bus bound for a residential treatment center on Jan. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

The government agency said it had conducted on-site inspections at 40 IM-related schools and facilities and ordered or advised the society to carry out COVID-19 tests for all people at 32 facilities.

The missionary society reportedly runs 23 educational facilities with 841 students and teaching staff in 11 metropolitan cities and provinces nationwide.

"Preemptive coronavirus tests will be administered to all groups and facilities related to IM. There haven't yet been reports of IM-related people refusing to take the test," Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official at the agency, said.

"A thorough epidemiological investigation has been under way, and all people exposed to infected students and instructors have been subject to the coronavirus test in cooperation with local governments," he said, vowing all-out efforts to stem the spread of the cluster.

The IEM School has so far reported 133 infected cases, including students and instructors, while another IM-affiliated school in Gwangju, the TCS Ace International School, has reported 109 infections.

Notably, 39 IEM School students and teachers, who attended a winter retreat at a church in Hongcheon, 100 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Jan. 16-25, have tested positive for COVID-19, heightening fears of virus transmissions among residents of the quiet Gangwon Province town.


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