Seoul (AsiaNews) - The South Korean government has confirmed the sixth death caused by Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and 23 new infections, bringing the total to 87.
With these numbers, the Health Ministry has stated that the situation is now a "national emergency". The country is second in the world rankings with most infections, exceeding the UAE and on a par with Saudi Arabia.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is caused by the coronavirus and looks like a disease very similar to Sars – which flared up in 2003 – it killed at least a thousand people. However, the Mers virus would be far more deadly than the previous one: in fact, the death rate is around 50%, compared with 10% of SARS.
The strain that hit South Korea exploded about two weeks ago. Despite the criticism and demands of the population, the government led by Park Geun-hye maintained an attitude of "total privacy" on the identity of the victims and even their geographic location. According to critics, Seoul has actually tried to "cover up" the progress of the disease (such as China during the SARS crisis).
After the fifth death, the government changed its strategy. The Ministry of Health has opened a toll-free emergency number and called on "all those who have visited Seoul’s two medical centers of Kyung Hee and Konkuk universities " to present themselves for inspection. Currently there are just over 2,350 people in quarantine and about 1,900 schools closed as a precaution.