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S. Korea to seek indemnity against church over COVID-19 treatment costs


South Korea's national health insurance operator said Monday it will push to force a Seoul church and its members, blamed for a recent spike in coronavirus cases, to cover costs of treatment of patients linked to it.

A total of 1,056 cases traced to Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul were confirmed as of Monday at 25 locations across the country.

The state-run National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) said it will exercise its right to indemnity against organizations and people who hampered the authorities' efforts to stem COVID-19 spread over the cost it spent to treat them.

The agency estimated the treatment cost for 1,035 church-related patients confirmed as of Sunday to be some 6.5 billion won ($5.48 million).

The average coronavirus treatment cost stood at 6.32 million won, with the NHIS paying 5.34 million won of the total.

"If cases similar to the Sarang Jeil Church case occur -- violating disease prevention guidelines and hampering anti-virus efforts -- we will actively consider actions such as seeking indemnity," an official said.

South Korea announced 248 new COVID-19 cases over the preceding 24 hours Monday, raising the total caseload to 19,947. (Yonhap)