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Russian tourists staying away from South Korea despite end of deadly virus outbreak

July 22, 2015, 20:56 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Although the deadly MERS virus has been contained, the end of the outbreak has not yet helped South Korea to win back tourists, Russian Travel Industry Union's spokeswoman told TASS
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© AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

MOSCOW, July 22. /TASS/. Russian tourists are not rushing to travel to South Korea's resorts despite reports that an outbreak of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has been contained, Russia's Travel Industry Union (RST) said on Tuesday.

With no new cases recorded in South Korea over the past two weeks, hopes are high the virus there has been contained.

South Korea's MERS outbreak was the largest outside Saudi Arabia, with 36 deaths and 186 people infected. It was traced to a South Korean man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East in May.

The country’s health ministry said last week there were also no more deaths, with just 150 people remaining in quarantine for possible infection. If no new cases are registered within two weeks, Seoul will declare the end of the outbreak, the ministry said.

"Although the South Korean authorities declare that the virus has been contained, the end of the outbreak has not yet helped South Korea to win back tourists," RST spokeswoman Irina Tyurina told TASS, citing Russian tour operators' data.

Tyurina said demand for tours to South Korea had fallen by nearly 60% year-on-year in June and July, adding that only business tourism remained "more or less stable".

MERS is a viral respiratory infection caused by the newly identified MERS-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that is new to humans. It was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and since then has spread to several other countries — Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France — the total of 23 countries, where over 1,100 cases of infected patients have been registered, of which 40% had lethal outcomes. In confirmed cases of infection, South Korea now follows Saudi Arabia, where healthcare authorities report over 1,000 cases since 2012.

Most MERS-CoV patients develop severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, coughing, and breathing problems. About 3-4 out of every 10 MERS patients die. MERS-CoV is transmitted through direct contact.

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