Schools reopen in South Korea amid more MERS cases

Five new cases and one death from MERS reported as thousands of schools reopen in South Korea seeking normality.

The rapid spread of MERS in the Pacific country is believed to be linked to the hospital settings there [AP]
The rapid spread of MERS in the Pacific country is believed to be linked to the hospital settings there [AP]

Thousands of schools that were closed over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea have reopened, amid more reported infections of the deadly disease and a new death.

Five new infections of MERS were announced on Monday, increasing the total number to 150, the health ministry said. The office also reported another death because of the disease, taking the total to 16.

In an attempt to get back to normal life, the majority of schools resumed educational activities on Monday. Proactive precautions were put in place in schools and kindergartens.

23 new MERS cases detected in South Korea

Only 440 schools remain shut, far less than the 3,000 schools that were closed, according to the education ministry.

Al Jazeera’s Musun Kim, reporting from Seoul, said parents complained that children did not want to stay at home all day long and went to places where it was even more likely for them to get infected compared to schools.

“In the absence of places to go during the day, some kids would rather just go to PC rooms, where they play computer games, or karaoke. These places might be worse than school in terms of hygiene,” Musun said.

“The health ministry and the World Health Organization had said that it was not medically appropriate to close schools. Schools are not a source of MERS. MERS infection only happened within medical facilities not in community.”

Blanket order lifted

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and the education office of the country’s largest Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, lifted their blanket closure order last Friday and Thursday, respectively.

Read more: S Korea shuts nearly 2,000 schools as MERS cases soar 

“Kindergartens and elementary schools in two southern districts of Seoul and schools in seven cities of Gyeonggi province have been closed after the blanket closure order. From today, such schools were allowed to make their own decisions whether to close or reopen at each school headmaster’s discretion.”

South Korea is going through the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia, traced to a businessman who had returned from a trip to the Middle East.

The rapid spread of MERS in the Pacific country is believed to be linked to the hospital settings there. All the victims of MERS have been elderly patients or people with serious health problems.

Between 2002 and 2003 the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a similar disease, killed about 800 people worldwide, predominantly in Asia.

Experts say MERS is more deadly than SARS but does not spread as easily. In Saudi Arabia, MERS was first seen in humans in 2012.

Source: Al Jazeera


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