‘Ex­ces­sive’ alarm as SK re­ports 16th MERS death


South Korea Mon­day re­ported its 16th death in an ex­pand­ing MERS out­break, as Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye called for ef­forts to shore up the econ­omy against what she called “ex­ces­sive” public alarm.

Seoul also de­clared five new pa­tients — bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of cases in­clud­ing the deaths to 150 — as fears grew over the im­pact of the out­break on Asia’s fourth-largest econ­omy.

More than 2,000 schools, which had been closed na­tion­wide, re­opened Mon­day as the out­break showed signs of slow­ing, the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry said, adding 329 schools and 126 were still shut.

Park, whose pop­u­lar­ity has plunged due to the cri­sis, urged ef­forts to min­imise the dam­age to the econ­omy, say­ing con­sumer spend­ing had dipped and the num­ber of for­eign tourists had plunged.

“I am afraid the un­ex­pected out­break of MERS will quash the mo­men­tum of eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” she told a meet­ing with ad­vis­ers.

“It is im­por­tant to pre­vent the spread of ex­ces­sive public anx­i­ety and al­low nor­mal eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties to re­sume quickly.”

More than 100,000 for­eign­ers have can­celled trips to South Korea since the be­gin­ning of June,

kinder­gartens vice tourism min­is­ter Kim Chong said, adding for­eign cur­rency earn­ings would dwin­dle by US$2.3 bil­lion if the num­ber plunges by 50 per­cent.

“Our tourism in­dus­try is faced with a very dire sit­u­a­tion,” he said, promis­ing fi­nan­cial aid worth 72 bil­lion won (US$64 mil­lion) to help tourism-re­lated busi­nesses.

About 14.2 mil­lion for­eign­ers, or about 1.18 mil­lion peo­ple a month on av­er­age, vis­ited the coun­try last year.

A 58-year-old man who had been suf­fer­ing from di­a­betes was the lat­est vic­tim of Mid­dle East Re­s­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome, which broke out in South Korea less than a month ago.

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