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South Korean tourism recovers fully after MERS outbreak

October 21, 2015, 8:24 UTC+3 SEOUL
The country declared a "de facto end" to the outbreak of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Virus on July 28
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© EPA/YANG JI-WOONG

SEOUL, October 21. /TASS/. The numbers of foreign tourists visiting South Korea is almost the level before the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS), the Korean Tourist Organization said on Wednesday.

"The South Korean tourism sector has practically recovered from the damage, incurred from the disease," the organization said in its statement. "We expect the level of tourists coming to the country will reach the level of past year in October."

The organization said in September the country hosted 9.6 million tourists — by 3.1% down year-on-year. In June and July, the outbreak made tourists refuse from trips to South Korea — 41 and 54% respectively, most of them were citizens of China.

South Korea declared a "de facto end" to the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS) on July 28.

After carefully considering different factors, the authorities and medics reached a conclusion that the coronavirus does not threaten people in South Korea any more, the country’s Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said then. More than 16,700 people were quarantined in the country at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

No new cases were registered over the last 23 days, the prime minister noted. Since May 20, when the first MERS case was registered in South Korea, 36 people died and 186 were infected. The virus was brought by a South Korean national returning from a trip to the Middle East.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (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 or 4 out in 10 MERS patients die. MERS-CoV is transmitted through direct contact.

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