Jeju hotel shuts after guest is diagnosed with Mers

Animal trainers caring for camels under quarantine at a tourist spot on Jeju Island. Camels are suspected to be potential carriers of the Mers virus.
Animal trainers caring for camels under quarantine at a tourist spot on Jeju Island. Camels are suspected to be potential carriers of the Mers virus.PHOTO: EPA
President Park Geun Hye (right) and Health Minister Moon Hyong Pyo visiting the Health and Welfare Ministry in Sejong, south of Seoul, on Wednesday.
President Park Geun Hye (right) and Health Minister Moon Hyong Pyo visiting the Health and Welfare Ministry in Sejong, south of Seoul, on Wednesday. PHOTO: AFP

He toured island with eight others before flying to Seoul

SEOUL - South Korea's Hotel Shilla has temporarily shut its hotel on Jeju Island after learning that a recent guest has been diagnosed with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), a company spokesman said yesterday.

The guest had been staying from June 5 to 8 at the hotel in Jeju, a holiday destination, before being diagnosed some time after checking out, the spokesman said.

It is yet to be decided when the hotel will resume operations, he added.

TAKING NO CHANCES

The mood in Jeju is still normal but more people are wearing masks.... We will wear masks if we need to go to crowded places but usually, we will avoid the crowds if we can. We will go on nature walks or to the seaside, instead of shopping malls. We will cook at home instead of eating out; cut down on supermarket trips and buy in bulk.

- Mr Ham Dae Sik, 45, a farm owner in Jeju. He is married and has a 10-month-old baby.

Jeju Island officials said that they were notified by central counter-measures headquarters on Wednesday that the infected guest had toured around the island with a total of eight companions, including his wife, son and other family friends, before returning to Seoul last Monday. The group had travelled by air, reported The Korea Herald.

The patient went to work last Tuesday, but after he started showing symptoms of fever and cough, he did not return to work the next few days. He was first tested for Mers last Friday and was later confirmed to be infected.

The patient had reportedly accompanied his father for a regular check-up at the Samsung Medical Centre, one of the hospitals where most of the infections occurred, on May 27.

The health authorities are monitoring those who came in close contact with the patient, but none has reported any symptoms so far, news reports said.

Reports said the patient had created a ruckus at a different hospital in southern Seoul last Friday while getting tested for Mers before fleeing back to his house by taxi. He was admitted to Seoul Medical Centre the next day.

"The mood in Jeju is still normal but more people are wearing masks," Mr Ham Dae Sik, 45, a farm owner in Jeju, told The Straits Times. With a wife and 10-month-old baby, Mr Ham is taking no chances. "We will wear masks if we need to go to crowded places but usually, we will avoid the crowd if we can. We will go on nature walks or to the seaside, instead of shopping malls," he said. "We will cook at home instead of eating out; cut down on supermarket trips and buy in bulk."

Mers threatens to deal a blow to South Korea's economic recovery, Moody's Investors Service said yesterday.

The outbreak has kept consumers from visiting malls and parks and led to more than 100,000 tourist visit cancellations, denting consumer spending.

"The spread of the illness is credit negative for the sovereign, because it is dampening consumer confidence amid already weak domestic demand, threatening to undermine an incipient recovery in economic growth," Moody's said.

REUTERS, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Jeju hotel shuts after guest is diagnosed with Mers'. Print Edition | Subscribe