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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Can Churches Be High Risk Areas for COVID-19?

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pray during a service at the Chogyesa temple in South Korea, Monday, June 22, 2020.

As cases of coronavirus continue to climb in many parts of the United States and elsewhere, public health care professionals are looking closely at “hot spots.” These are areas that can spark a high number of cases — including houses of worship.

Churches could be added to the South Korean government list of places to be cautious about when it comes to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Korea Herald quotes South Korean health officials as saying they are “evaluating risks of catching or passing on the virus at religious facilities, and possibly designating them as high risk.”

That would put them on the same level as bars and nightclubs — as well as concert arenas and indoor gyms.

Churches have been opened for about two months in South Korea — distancing is required and so are face masks. Some churches have gone further — especially in Seoul, where online booking has become a part of church-going.

In Singapore, some churches are using projection screens instead of hymnals. Christianity Today says that step can “minimize points of communal contact.”

Social distancing is in place at houses of worship for other faiths around the region as well. Some mosques have been open in Indonesia for about a month now, but there is generous spacing between prayer rugs inside and the mosques never come close to capacity.

But it’s not only the traditional buildings that have come under examination in some areas. Clusters of cases have been associated with outside religious gatherings in Malaysia, South Korea and elsewhere.

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