South Korea is seeking murder charges against leaders of a secretive church at the center of a ballooning coronavirus outbreak in the country on Monday as the global death toll rose above 3,000.
World stock markets regained some calm as hopes for global interest rate cuts to soften the economic blow of the virus steadied nerves after last week’s worst plunge since the 2008 financial crisis.
South Korea reported 599 new coronavirus cases, taking its national tally to 4,335, following the country’s biggest daily jump on Saturday of 813 confirmed infections.
There were 586 more on Sunday, broadening the largest virus outbreak outside China. There have been 26 deaths in total.
Worldwide, the death toll has risen to 3,044, according to Reuters figures. Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the southeastern city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of South Korea’s cases have been traced.
The agency said that in January some members of the church visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged late last year.
The Seoul government asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of the church, a movement that reveres founder Lee Man-hee.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said that if Lee and other heads of the church had cooperated, preventive measures could have saved the people who died.
“The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?” Park said in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.
Seoul’s city government said it had filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, asking for an investigation of Lee and 12 others on charges of murder and disease control act violations.
Lee apologized on Monday that one of its members had infected many others, calling the epidemic a “great calamity”.
“We did our best but was not able to stop the spread of the virus,” Lee told reporters.
It was not immediately known how many of South Korea’s dead were directly connected to the church.
Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the epidemic, closed the first of 16 specially built hospitals, hurriedly put up to treat people with the virus, after it discharged its last recovered patients, state broadcaster CCTV said on Monday.