A South Korean hospital at the center of an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) will resume normal operations on Monday, the health ministry said, as a health scare that rattled the economy wanes, with no new cases reported since July 4.
South Korea’s MERS outbreak was the largest outside Saudi Arabia, with 36 deaths and 186 people infected. It was traced to a South Korean man who returned from a business trip to the Middle East in May.
The Samsung Medical Center, a prominent Seoul hospital run by South Korea’s massive Samsung Group, had suspended most services and taken no new patients for more than a month, to focus on stopping MERS, after nearly half of the cases were traced to it.
Long emergency room waits at the hospital, one of Seoul’s top medical centers, helped fuel the spread of the virus, tarnishing its image.
The outbreak forced the closure of thousands of schools, while customers avoided movie theaters and tourists canceled visits, dealing a blow to an already weakened economy.
It also exposed shortcomings in health care in South Korea, where a culture of lengthy group visits to sick relatives was among the factors blamed for worsening the spread of the virus.
South Korea’s health ministry has said it was discussing with the World Health Organisation (WHO) when to declare the end of the outbreak.
No MERS patient in the country has died for six days, with only 16 still in hospital, and just 150 people remaining in quarantine for possible infection, down from 6,700, health ministry data shows.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe)