North Korea vows strict measures against Mers

Officials have stepped up screening for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and quarantine measures at the international airport and at border crossings.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 15 Jun 2015, 11:55 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Seoul — North Korea has intensified screening and vowed “watertight” measures to ward off the Mers virus as an outbreak in South Korea killed 15 and sparked widespread alarm.

Officials have stepped up screening for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and quarantine measures at the international airport and at border crossings, said Chosun Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan.

“Central and regional health officials are making thorough and watertight preparations to block any passage of the Mers virus into the country,” it said.

Senior health ministry official Pak Myong-Su, in an essay in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Sunday, noted “growing concerns in a neighbouring country” about the outbreak.

“We all have to actively join efforts to prevent Mers and to promote the superiority and capability of our socialist health system,” he wrote.

The Seoul reported on Sunday its 15th death from the Mers virus as the growing outbreak that has infected 145 forced one of the nation’s biggest hospitals to suspend most services.

The latest fatality from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was a 62-year-old man who died on Sunday afternoon in the southern port city of Busan, the city council said.

He was diagnosed on June 7 after being infected in Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul — a major hospital and the epicentre of more than 70 cases. The health ministry also confirmed on Sunday seven new cases of the virus, including four from the Samsung hospital, bringing the total number of infections to 145.

Separately, a paramedic who helped transport a Mers patient to the hospital on June 7 was infected. On Saturday, authorities announced that the ambulance driver also involved in transporting the patient — who died three days later — had also been infected.

One of the other new patients was infected in the central city of Daejeon and another in Hwaseong, about 43 kilometres south of Seoul.

In order to prevent further infections among patients and medical staff, Samsung hospital on Sunday temporarily suspended most of its operations. It will stop treating outpatients, admitting new patients, or performing surgeries that are not deemed urgent, hospital president Song Jae-Hoon told reporters.

No visitors will be allowed, he said, adding he would decide on June 24 whether or not to continue the partial suspension.

“We offer our deep apology and express regret to all of our patients who were infected here and those placed under quarantine,” he said.

The hospital — normally visited by more than 8,000 patients a day — has come under fire in recent weeks for failing to stem the spread of the virus among its staff and patients.

Two doctors and three nurses have been infected so far. More than 400 patients, families and medical staff directly or indirectly exposed to the infected ambulance driver had been newly placed under quarantine, Song said. — AFP

The overall number of people across the nation who came into contact with patients and were put under quarantine — either at state facilities or at home — rose Sunday by more than 800 to 4,856. — AFP

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