S Korea schhols closed on MERS fears as five new cases reported

05 Jun 2015


South Korean authorities confirmed they had identified five new cases of the potentially fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) yesterday, as hundreds of schools around the country closed to help contain the spread of the virus.

The Wall Street Journal reported South Korea's Ministry of Health as saying that the new patients did not have direct contact with the country's original MERS carrier, which led to fears that there might be more undetected cases.

The virus had killed two people as of date and infected 35, pushing public-health officials to quarantine over 1,300 others.

Authorities closed over 700 schools across the country this week in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

According to South Korean tourism officials thousands of visitors from across the region had started cancelling travel plans en mass.

According to Agence France-Presse, approximately 7,000 tourists - mostly from China and Taiwan had cancelled previously scheduled tours of the East Asian nation.

''A mass cancellation of this scale is very unusual,'' a spokesperson from the Korea Tourism Organization told the news agency. ''Many travellers cited the MERS outbreak as the main reason.''

Meanwhile, authorities in South Korea had declared ''war'' on what according to them was the worst outbreak of the deadly Mers virus outside the Middle East.

Authorities said today, they were stepping up their response after the death of the fourth victim even as the number of people infected with the disease rose to 41.

Over 1,600 people had been placed under quarantine, according to media reports even as  the outbreak of the disease, for which there was no vaccine, had led to the temporary closure of over 1,000 schools and colleges.

A government hotline for seeking advice had logged thousands of calls.

It comes as the worst MERS outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, where the respiratory virus was believed to have originated three years ago.

In a throwback to an earlier outbreak of SARS over a decade ago, anxious residents rushed to stock up on surgical masks and airports were stepping up screening efforts after the outbreak in the country was traced to a 68-year-old man who had gone travelling in the Middle East

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