South Korea to track mobiles as MERS death toll rises 5

South Korea decides to track cellphones belonging to those diagnosed with MERS as the deadly virus kills five in the country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015


South Korea on Sunday announced that it will track patients who are infected of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as it reported its fifth death of the disease.

The number of MERS infectees rose to 64 with 14 new cases, including one death, South Korea’s health ministry said on Saturday night.   

10 of the new cases were staying at same hospital in Seoul, where a 75 year old man who died from the virus, South Korea's health ministry said.

Deputy Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan announced the country’s new plan to track the mobile phone of individuals who are under quarantine in their home to ensure  they are upholding the quarantine.   

"Please understand this is an unavoidable measure for the sake of our neighbors and families," Choi said.  

South Korea’s Health Ministry reported its first MERS case on May 20, a 68 years old man from Bahrain in Korea for farming related business on April 18. After his entrance to the country, the virus began to spread rapidly.

Kindergartens and schools will close in the Seocho and Gangnam districts due to the 120 cases  recorded in hospitals in the districts until Wednesday,according to a Seoul education official.

South Korean Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, who is also the country’s Deputy Prime Minister said that It is not necessary to reserve an extra budget for tackling the virus as the country is trying to recover weak economic conditions.

The MERS coronavirus is the same family with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which left more than 800 people dead and infected about 8,000 people worldwide between 2002-2003.

MERS does not spread from human to human easily but its fatality rate is much higher than SARS, with 38 percent of those dying, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

“The outbreak is the largest reported outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the disease first emerged in April 2012 and the vast majority of cases have occurred,” said the WHO in a statement earlier this week, according to TIME Magazine.

1,208 MERS cases have been reported worldwide, including the latest South Korean cases, since April 2012. According to WHO data, the virus has so far caused the deaths of more than 444 people.

TRTWorld and agencies