Seoul to provide quarantine gear to North Korea

Seoul to provide quarantine gear to North Korea

South Korea said Thursday it would provide equipment to help detect Middle East respiratory syndrome at a joint factory park in North Korea in a rare reconciliatory gesture.

The decision was taken two days after Pyongyang made the request.

Seoul will send three heat-sensing cameras shortly to the Gaeseong industrial complex, a Unification Ministry official said.

Last November, Seoul had lent the devices, each worth 15 million won ($13,600), to help brace for a possible spread of the Ebola virus across the district where some 53,000 North Koreans are employed.

"The North raised the issue of the MERS outbreak here, requesting quarantine equipment including three thermal scanners," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The devices will be installed at the customs and immigration office that provides access to South Koreans, as well as the entry point used by North Koreans."

Pyongyang has also asked for masks for its workers, the official said, adding that the ministry will make a decision after consultation with the companies running plants there.

South Koreans will separately be checked for signs of fever before and after they enter the border city.

"They had so far been examined upon their return from Gaeseong. … We're making our utmost efforts to prevent the virus from spreading into the North," the official said.

Wary of its porous health care system, the reclusive country has shown high interest in the MERS outbreak in South Korea since its state media delivered the news for the first time on May 23.

The regime imposed a travel ban on all foreign tourists for about five months during the West African Ebola epidemic.

It also requested Seoul's support to help contain the spread of avian flu in 2009.

As of midday, two South Koreans have died from the MERS virus and the number of confirmed cases swelled to 35, with nearly 1,700 being put under quarantine.

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