Hundreds of South Korean schools have closed their doors as officials struggle to ease growing panic over an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome virus, which has infected 35 people, killed two and prompted thousands to cancel travel plans.
More than 700 schools, from kindergartens to colleges, have shut in response to public fears over what has become the largest outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) outside Saudi Arabia.
Five more cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the total number of known infections to 35, the health ministry said.
The first case, reported on 20 May, was of a 68-year-old man diagnosed after a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Since then, more than 1,300 people who may have been exposed directly or indirectly to the virus have been placed under varying levels of quarantine.
Some were isolated at state-designated facilities and many were strongly advised to stay at home.
In Seoul growing public concern has been reflected in the daily increase in the number of commuters wearing face masks.
And the anxiety has been exported. The Korea tourism organisation reported on Thursday that about 7,000 tourists, mostly from China and Taiwan, had cancelled group trips to South Korea.
“A mass cancellation of this scale is very unusual … and many travellers cited the Mers outbreak as the main reason,” an organisation spokesman said. Read more
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