South Korea’s Park delays US visit due to MERS outbreak

South Korea President Park delays US trip to tackle with MERS outbreak

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

South Korean President Park Geun-hye postponed her visit to the US oversee efforts to halt the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, a spokesman from the South Korean Presidential Blue House said on Wednesday.

Park will fly on Sunday to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington on June 16 to discuss security and economic issues, according to an earlier statement from the White House.

“She postponed the trip so that she can take care of public safety, including putting a quick end to the MERS,” A spokesman for Park's office told reporters.

“The trip will be rescheduled for the earliest mutually convenient time," he added.

South Korea’s Health Ministry reported two more deaths from the virus on Wednesday and 13 new infections, bringing the total cases to 108.

South Korea announced its first MERS case on May 20 - a 68-year-old man from Bahrain who came to South Korea for farming related business on April 18. After his entrance to the country, the virus began to spread rapidly.

According to the Yonhap News agency, 3,439 people have been under quarantine on suspicion of coming in contact with the infected patients.

More than 2,500 kindergartens, schools and universities have been closed in Seoul and its suburbs, particularly in the Seocho and Gangnam districts.

The outbreak of MERS, which has no known cure, is the largest reported outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it was first detected.

The MERS coronavirus is from the same family as 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 infected dying, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

TRTWorld and agencies