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South Korea announces 10th MERS victim, officials believe cases easing

South Korea's Health Ministry has announced the 10th fatality from the MERS virus outbreak. Some officials have urged the population to return to "normal daily lives" to avert negative economic consequences.

South Korea announced on Thursday the latest fatality from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus outbreak, bringing the death toll to 10.

The latest victim of the outbreak, a 65-year-old man, was infected by the virus while undergoing treatment for lung cancer at a hospital.

The Health Ministry reported that the man was receiving medical treatment at the same hospital another as another patient who was later diagnosed with the virus.

The ministry also announced 14 new cases on Thursday, including the first pregnant woman to have contracted the virus.

However, some have said that the cases are easing and the focus must now be on returning to daily life.

"We all need to put behind us excessive fear and psychological withdrawal over MERS and try to go back to normal daily lives next week so we can minimize the impact on the economy," said Kim Moo-sung, head of the ruling Saenuri party.

'Re-opening schools'

More than 2,500 schools were closed across the country for fears that the virus would spread. However, the

WHO

said on Wednesday that it recommended re-opening schools after it found that they were not linked to the transmission of the deadly virus.

More than 54,000 inbound travelers have canceled their trips to the country in the past month, the Korea Tourism Board reported.

The outbreak also prompted President Park Geun-Hye to

cancel a trip to the US scheduled for June 14-18

. The cancelation comes amid increased criticism of her administration's response to the crisis.

Averting economic crisis

Bank of Korea governor Lee Ju-Yeol said on Thursday that due to the MERS crisis, the country's

central bank was forced to cut its benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point

, after having already done so in March. The key interest rate hit a record low of 1.5 percent.

"The full impact of the outbreak still remains uncertain but we thought it was desirable to act pre-emptively to curb its negative impact on…the economy," the governor said.

In a separate statement, the bank said it was "concerned that economic and consumer sentiment, which had been improving, will worsen rapidly because of the MERS crisis."

ls/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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