SOUTH Korean President Park Geun Hye yesterday urged officials to ease rising public panic over an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) that has infected 30 people, killed two and closed hundreds of schools.
With the World Health Organisation predicting further infections and the government under fire for its initial response, Ms Park convened an emergency meeting with top health officials and medical experts to map out a comprehensive quarantine strategy, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.
"Many South Koreans are getting anxious," Ms Park said, urging "utmost efforts" to prevent further spread of the virus.
"Students and the elderly are among the most vulnerable...so let's discuss how to protect these people," she added.
Ms Park also announced the creation of a special task force consisting of civil medical experts, while expanding the pan-governmental countermeasures headquarters to cope with the outbreak of Mers, reported The Korea Herald yesterday.
More than 1,300 people have been quarantined or isolated, and more than 250 schools in four cities and provinces temporarily closed to prevent possible Mers infection among children, The Korea Herald reported yesterday.
Most of the schools were in the province of Gyeonggi, around Seoul, where the first Mers-related death in South Korea occurred on Monday.
A second death, announced by South Korea's Health Ministry on Tuesday, was the latest fatality from Mers in Asia since a man died in Malaysia in April last year.
The first case in the country - a 68-year-old man who had gone to Saudi Arabia - was reported on May 20.
South Korea has the most Mers cases outside the Middle East, where the disease first appeared in humans three years ago.
The virus has now infected 1,161 people globally, with 436 deaths. More than 20 countries have been affected, with most cases in Saudi Arabia, reported Agence France-Presse yesterday. There is no known cure or vaccine.