Seoul city officials were accused by Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo of disseminating incorrect information which could cause widespread alarm. This is reminiscence of what happened in the 3 West African countries during the start of the Ebola infection outbreak. The WHO was very slow to act and it seems, the UN body is doing the same thing here again.
South Korean officials have shown their ineptitude in handling the crisis and the officials are even squabbling among themselves. Schools have been closed and quarantine has been in effect. Will the WHO need a Korean request before they act? Let’s us see how this whole thing will unfold.
Four South Koreans have already died and 41 others have been infected by MERS, making the outbreak the largest outside the Middle East, where it first appeared in Saudi Arabia last 2012.
MERS causes pneumonia, breathing problems, kidney failure and fever, with a death rate of 27%, World Health Organization (WHO) said. At present there is no known vaccine for the disease.
Park Won-soon, the Seoul Mayor said a doctor from South Korea ignored orders to refrain from showing in public following showing signs of MERS symptoms on Sunday.
The doctor continued working and attended meetings with more than 1,500 people. It was later discovered that the doctor contracted MERS thru a patient.
BBC South Korea correspondent Steve Evans says the fear now is that the infected doctor might have spread the illness uncontrollably.
People who were present at the gathering are advised to stay in voluntary quarantine.
Government officials are presently trying to contain the spread of the disease and public panic.
The central government was criticized by Park for not making enough effort to disseminate more information with regards to the doctor’s case.
Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo struck back, rejecting the accusation that his ministry mishandled the case.
He said, “The announcement by the city of Seoul yesterday has parts that are not factual and can increase public concern.”
He added that the comments will hurt the government’s credibility and effort to halt the spread of MERS.
Too much information may lead to panic while too little information may lead to rumor and unnecessary fear, giving the authorities a dilemma, our correspondent says.
Due to the uncertainty, the public reacted by buying masks and refraining from sending their children to school, he adds.
The total number of documented infections in the country has reached 41 cases.
The 4th death due to MERS was a 76-year-old man who died last Thursday after having been tested positive for the virus just last month.
Already more than South Korea 700 schools have been closed since the start of the outbreak.