South Korea Confirms 23 New MERS Cases as Total Increases to 87

Middle East respiratory syndrome continues to spread in South Korea, with the total number of cases rising to 87, an increase of 23, the country’s health ministry said in an e-mailed statement early on Monday.

The health minister will brief lawmakers on the MERS outbreak later this morning, Yonhap News reported. The government said yesterday it is strengthening measures to contain the outbreak, including tracking mobile phones belonging to people meant to be under quarantine.

The new measures were announced even as officials, worried about the impact on the economy if events are canceled and people avoid public places, seek to reassure that the outbreak is under control. Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung Hwan said yesterday people shouldn’t overreact.

The outbreak is “controllable,” Choi said at a press briefing. “The government will take all preemptive measures necessary to minimize any negative impact on the economy.”

He said a supplementary budget to tackle the impact of MERS hasn’t yet been discussed.

The number of people in quarantine had risen to 2,361 as of yesterday, according to the health ministry.

MERS, a coronavirus from the Arabian peninsula, has infected more than 1,100 people and killed about 400 worldwide, with most in the Middle East. It can lead to severe illness including respiratory failure, or septic shock. There’s no vaccine or cure.

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