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Uzbeks with COVID-19 attended religious gathering in Cheongju


Six Uzbeks who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday were found to have attended an Islamic religious event in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, with some 340 other people last Friday, prompting health authorities to test all of them.

The six Uzbeks attended the celebration of Eid al-Adha, one of the two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year at the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, at a park in Cheongju on July 31.

Those who attended the event wrote their names in the visitors’ register, wore masks and had their temperatures checked before entering the venue, authorities said Wednesday.

The attendees, however, said they shared bread and milk at the venue, alarming health authorities.

As many of the 340 participants failed to maintain 2 meters of safe distance from each other, and removed their masks when having the food, authorities plan to identify and test all of them.

Authorities said they have tested 126 people based on the visitors’ register, with all of them having tested negative.

The rest are still being tested.

The first part of the event was attended by some 300 Uzbeks and others from former Soviet Union states. The second part was attended by about 40 people from Arabic and Southeast Asian countries.

The event was hosted by the Cheongju Islam Culture Center, which was founded in 2016 by a 42-year-old Lebanese national who is currently enrolled at a graduate school in North Chungcheong Province.

The center was closed for three months from February due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but reportedly reopened in mid-May with safe distancing rules in place.

The center holds one-hour worship sessions from 8 p.m. on weekdays and noon on Friday.

Normally, about 20 people attend weekday sessions, while about 100 congregate for the Friday sessions.

By Kim So-hyun (