South Korea promises 'all-out' approach to contain Mers outbreak that has killed 5

The public has been urged to cooperate with the government to stem undue confusion and to maintain good personal hygiene to help stop Mers from spreading. -- PHOTO: AFP
The public has been urged to cooperate with the government to stem undue confusion and to maintain good personal hygiene to help stop Mers from spreading. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL - A 35-year-old man diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) in a Seoul hospital had exposed the virus to more than 890 people, said a spokesman, as the outbreak rages on in South Korea, claiming its fifth victim out of 64 infections while about 2,300 people remain in quarantine.

Finally responding to mounting pressure for transparency, the government released the full list of 24 Mers-affected hospitals on Sunday. These include Samsung Medical Centre in the posh Gangnam district in Seoul, where 17 patients are warded - the second highest number after Pyeongtaek St Mary's Hospital in Gyeonggi province, the epicentre of the outbreak, with 36 cases.

Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung Hwan said in an emergency briefing on Sunday that the announcement represents a shift in the government's strategy and that it will now be "as open as possible" in addressing Mers-related issues.

Mr Choi, who is also Finance Minister, also promised an "all-out" approach to contain the outbreak that has sparked fear throughout the country and prompted thousands of tourists to cancel their trips. This includes measures like handphone tracking for potential patients.

He also urged the public to cooperate with the government to stem undue confusion and to maintain good personal hygiene to help stop Mers from spreading.

There are also plans to decentralise the procedure for Mers testing, which is currently done by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to allow 17 health institutes to conduct tests.

As of yesterday, 2,361 people remained in quarantine, said the Health Ministry. Nine of out 10 of them are isolated at home, and the rest at government-designated medical facilities.

Of the 14 new patients announced on Sunday, 10 are warded at Samsung Medical Centre, where they caught the virus from the 35-year-old man, who was diagnosed on May 30 after coming into contact with Patient Zero at Pyeongtaek St Mary's Hospital.

changmc@sph.com.sg

Read more in The Straits Times on Monday, June 8