South Korea declares end of Mers outbreak: Yonhap

Women wearing masks to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) walk at Myeongdong shopping district in central Seoul, South Korea, July 9, 2015. South Korea on Tuesday declared the end of its Mers outbreak, Yonhap news agency repo
Women wearing masks to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) walk at Myeongdong shopping district in central Seoul, South Korea, July 9, 2015. South Korea on Tuesday declared the end of its Mers outbreak, Yonhap news agency reported.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn on Tuesday declared that the deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) was over, Yonhap news agency reported.

Thirty-six people died out of the 186 infected in the Mers outbreak, the biggest of the virus outside Saudi Arabia, following the first diagnosis on May 20.

“After weighing various circumstances, the medical personnel and the government judge that the people can now be free from worry,” Hwang said in a meeting with government officials, Yonhap reported.

“I ask the public to shake off all concerns over Mers and to resume normal daily activities, including economic, cultural, leisure and school activities,” he added.

The outbreak has taken a toll on Asia’s fourth largest economy, stifling consumer spending.

Local businesses including shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas reported a sharp drop in sales as people shunned public venues with large crowds.

The government recently announced a 22 trillion won (S$26 billion) stimulus package, much of which was aimed at supporting businesses hurt by the Mers crisis.

The tourism industry was hit particularly hard, with the number of foreign visitors plunging by over 40 per  cent in June compared to a year ago, and a further 60 per cent in the first two weeks of July.

Seoul plans to spend up to 30 billion won on campaigns to lure back travellers including free promotional tours and large concerts by big-name K-pop stars, vice-tourism minister Kim Chong told foreign reporters last week.