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People's Daily Online

S.Korea declares de-facto end of MERS outbreak

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 15:20, July 28, 2015

SEOUL, July 28 -- South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Tuesday declared the de-facto end of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak as all MERS suspects were freed from quarantine amid no report of new infection case for more than three weeks.

'It is the judgment of the medical circles and the government that people can now feel relieved when collectively thinking various situations,'Hwang said during a cabinet meeting to control the deadly viral disease.

Hwang noted that all MERS suspects were freed from self and mandatory quarantines as of Monday and no new case of MERS infection was reported for more than three weeks. He added that 15 hospitals were also freed from the designation as medical institutions required to be intensively managed for MERS spread.

The declaration came 69 days after the first patient was discovered on May 20. The corona virus has infected 186 people, among whom 36 passed away. No new case was added for 23 days since July 6, and no death was added for 17 days since July 12.

It was an early declaration as the World Health Organization recommends that the MERS end come at a date four weeks after the last infectee is tested negative.

As of Tuesday, 12 infectees are under treatment. Eleven people have been confirmed negative for the viral disease, but the other one has been tested sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

The South Korean health authorities are mulling the formal declaration date to be a date four weeks after the last infectee is tested negative twice. It could come no later than late-August.

The early declaration of the de-facto end of the MERS outbreak was made to reinvigorate the faltering economy by allaying MERS concerns and normalizing people's daily lives.

Hwang noted that people can go back to daily lives such as leisure, cultural and economic activities without any fears for the MERS contagion, repeatedly apologizing for causing inconvenience and anxieties to the public.

After the MERS outbreak, people refrained from entertainment and social gatherings. Some even felt reluctant to go shopping for contagion fears, with many others unwilling to go to public places crowded with people.

At least 130,000 foreign tourists cancelled their travel plan to South Korea in June alone for the MERS spread.

It hit hardest the already lackluster domestic demand. South Korea's real GDP expanded 0.3 percent in the second quarter on a quarterly basis, after growing 0.8 percent in the previous quarter.

Bank of Korea (BOK) revised down its 2015 growth outlook by 0.3 percentage points to 2.8 percent in June on the back of the MERS crisis. The central bank cut its policy rate by 25 basis points to an all-time low of 1.5 percent in June after lowering it by the same extent in March.

To stimulate the sluggish economy, the finance ministry unveiled a stimulus package worth around 22 trillion won (19 billion U.S. dollars), including an 11.6 trillion-won supplementary budget plan.

Hwang said that the extra budget plan, which was passed through parliament, should be implemented rapidly to reinvigorate the economy, urging cabinet members to completely implement follow-up measures by each ministry.

The prime minister noted that comprehensive measures should be drawn up to prevent the recurrence of the viral disease spread, adding that responsibilities should be taken for the initial bungling of the government response.

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