Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify Lee Man-hee’s claim to being visited by Jesus and his ability to interpret the Bible.
An elderly woman accidentally spread the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19) while attending a service at a South Korean cult, increasing the number of infected people in South Korea dramatically.
A 61-year-old woman was reportedly linked to the spread of the virus that infected 37 other members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, according to Shanghaiist.
The woman was hospitalized on Feb. 7 following a car accident and developed a fever three days later. On Feb. 18 doctors performed tests on her and confirmed that she had the virus, Quartz reported.
It is unclear how the woman contracted the virus as she did not travel to China during the outbreak and said she was never aware of any contact with other infected patients.
About 1,000 members of the church were reportedly present when the woman attended the service.
The number of infections on Thursday was 53, of which 51 are from Daegu. In total, the country now has 156 confirmed cases, based on the data from Worldometers.
After the news broke out, Mayor Kwon Young-jin declared the city is facing an “unprecedented crisis” and ordered kindergartens as well as public libraries to shut down. Daegu has since turned into a ghost town.
The church has temporarily closed its facilities following the confirmed cases of COVID-19 and is now moving its meetings online.
현재 대구 동성로 상황 pic.twitter.com/oY8ZKooYIc
— 인엔 (@IEofgroup) February 20, 2020
Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, was founded in 1984 by Lee Man-hee who has claimed that Jesus appeared before him as a “bright heavenly figure,” according to the OC Register, and has published that he “is the only person who saw and heard the events of Revelation and can testify to the mysteries of Revelation, exactly according to the Bible.” The church, which was labeled by the government as a cult, claims to have more than 200,000 supporters globally.