South Korean Church Infects 46 Congregants By Spraying Salt Water Into Their Mouths, Failing To Disinfect Nozzle
A common home remedy for sore throats and congested noses is to gargle with salt water, or even drink it.
One South Korean church seemed to think that remedy would work on Covid-19 too, so they did something similar for their congregants, giving them spritzes of salt water into their mouths.
It was allegedly meant to prevent the spread of the virus, but instead, 46 of congregants were infected by these actions.
Image courtesy of AFP
Read on for more about the unfortunate turn of events.
Salt water sprayed directly into church members’ mouths
The church in question is the River of Grace Community Church in Gyeonggi province, just south of Seoul, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Video images of the church’s activities, taken during a prayer gathering attended by congregants earlier in March, show the nozzles of spray bottles being inserted deep into the mouths of congregants, and what is allegedly salt water being sprayed directly inside.
The nozzle was apparently not disinfected or even cleaned after being inserted into the mouth of a congregant, and before it was used on another.
The nozzle was likely deep enough in congregants’ mouths such that it was covered in aerosol particles of saliva — a way that Covid-19 spreads.
Mr Lee Hee Young, head of Gyeonggi Province’s coronavirus task force, was quoted by the SCMP as saying:
It’s been confirmed that they put the nozzle of the spray bottle inside the mouth of a follower who was later confirmed as a patient, before they did likewise for other followers as well, without disinfecting the sprayer.
46 church members tested positive
The salt water spraying occurred twice, on 1 Mar and 8 Mar, reported the SCMP.
Initially, 6 members of the church — including the pastor and his wife — tested positive for Covid-19, reported South Korean news site Yonhap News Agency.
However, 40 more tested positive, the city government of Seongnam, Gyeonggi province said on Monday (16 Mar), bringing the total number of infections at the church to 46.
All those infected at the church attended the 8 Mar service, the city government added, after testing all 135 members of the church.
Church’s pastor remorseful, plans to retire after pandemic blows over
The church’s pastor — who was named only as Kim — has apologised for the cluster of infections at the church.
He told Yonhap News Agency:
I feel deeply sorry about what has happened. I will take all the blame and responsibility.
He also said he would retire after the Covid-19 pandemic blows over.
Misinformation caused church’s infections
The Korea Herald, another South Korean news site, reported Mr Lee of Gyeonggi’s Covid-19 task force as saying that the infections at the church were caused by an “infodemic”, i.e. “an epidemic caused by misinformation”.
The church allegedly genuinely believed that the salt water would kill the virus.
Explaining that he considered it “almost, if not direct, contact” between patients, he added:
We expect more people to show up positive with coronavirus as everyone was sprayed.
Workers disinfecting the building next to the church
Image courtesy of AFP
The cases have bumped up the number of cases in South Korea after a recent slowdown.
No misinformation please, stick to advice from official sources
Clearly, it’s crucial that we propagate accurate information regarding Covid-19, lest we create another recipe for disaster like this.
Home remedies do work sometimes, but it’s best to stick to the official advice from health authorities when it comes to new, fatal viruses like this. If you’re not sure whether something is scientifically proven, it’s best to stick to what the health authorities are recommending.
And above all, do make sure the correct habits are being practised, like washing your hands often and disinfecting commonly used surfaces and items.
Featured image adapted from South China Morning Post and courtesy of AFP.
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