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South Korea says MERS worst might be over

South Korea's Health Ministry has announced the 11th death from the MERS outbreak amid significant drop in new cases. Hopes are high that the infection is on the decline as the number of quarantined people drops by 125.

The South Korean Health Ministry said on Friday that the number of new cases dropped, signaling the worst might be over in the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus outbreak. So far 11 people have died of the infection since it began in the country more than three weeks ago.

"The number of newly confirmed cases has fallen sharply and there are little risks of the virus spreading through airborne transmissions or to communities outside hospital settings," the South Korean Health Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry reported four new cases on Friday, the lowest daily increase in 11 days and a significant drop compared to Thursday, which witnessed the announcement of 14 new cases.

The number of people in quarantine also dropped by 125 on Friday from 3,805 the previous to 3,680.

"We ask the people to conquer their fear and engage in day-to-day business," the Health Ministry's statement said.

Südkorea MERS

More than 2,500 schools were closed down due to fears of transmission

More than 120 people have contracted the deadly virus since the first case was reported in May.

The latest victim, a 72-year-old woman, suffered from pneumonia, the Health Ministry reported, adding that all cases in which the virus had been contracted occurred in medical facilities.

More than 50 health care facilities were exposed to the virus, including 18 in Seoul and 16 in the surrounding Gyeonggi province, the AFP news agency reported.

The ministry's optimistic announcement comes a day after the central bank cut its interest rate by a quarter percent to curb a downturn in the country's already sluggish economy.

The outbreak began after a 68-year-old man who traveled to the Middle East visited several health facilities before being diagnosed.

ls/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)