South Korea wards off MERS threat

South Korean Prime Minister announces end of MERS outbreak after virus scared country’s society and economy

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

South Korea staved off the threat of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that killed 36 people and caused extensive panic throughout the country, South Korean prime minister declared on Tuesday.

Speaking in a meeting of government officials, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn said that the country handled the deadly outbreak that triggered to close scores of schools and stymied growth of the country’s economy.

Hwang said, "After weighing various circumstances, the medical personnel and the government judge that the people can now be free from worry." He went on to say, "I ask the public to shake off all concerns over MERS and to resume normal daily activities, including economic, cultural, leisure and school activities."

The outbreak hit a heavy blow to the country’s weakened economy, hitting the tourism sector particularly hard following the announcement that had been made.

Local business’ experienced a significant drop, as a result of closing schools, keeping consumers at home and tending tourist to cancel their trips into the country.

The numbers of foreign travellers who chose the country as a final destinationation declined over 40 percent in June compared to last year and 60 percent for the first two weeks of July.

Renewing the country’s economy, Soul announced a 22 trillion won (RM75.6 billion) stimulus package to support its businesses blowed by the MERS crisis.

The Bank of Korea has downgraded its economic growth forecast for the third time from 3.1 percent  growth to 2.8 percent, earlier this month.

As Seoul has been trying to ease the remainder of economic damage, schools and shops have reopened as the government has allocated 30 billion won on campaigns to attract travellers with free promotional tours and pop concerts by known Korean pop-stars.

MERS coronavirus began to spread rapidly in the country on May 20 following the entrance of a 68 year-old man who had visited Bahrain for farming related business trip and caught the infection.

South Korean government was blamed for acting slowly to respond to the only outbreak outside the Middle East that lead to 36 deaths and 186 confirmed cases within the country.

The disease is from the same family as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that was responsible for more than 800 death 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 infected dying, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

TRTWorld and agencies