‘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.