Three more people died due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 19, state-run news agency Yonhap reported Tuesday. Four new cases of the disease were also reported, taking the total number of cases in the country to 154.
One of the persons, a 49-year-old patient, became the youngest to die due to the disease in South Korea, Yonhap reported, citing the country’s ministry of health and welfare. Two of the three, who succumbed to the disease, reportedly had no prior medical issues before they were diagnosed with MERS. Besides, four of the total 19 also did not have any medical conditions before they were infected with the disease.
The health ministry said that three of the latest four cases contracted the disease from Seoul's Samsung Medical Center, which is considered responsible for the spread of the disease, and has thus suspended most of its operations until June 24. Three other hospitals, including Seoul's Boramae Medical Center and the Korea Cancer Center Hospital, have temporarily shut down their emergency rooms after it was revealed that they treated people without knowing they were patients of MERS.
The disease reached South Korea last month when a 68-year-old man, who recently visited the Middle East, walked into a hospital with cough and fever. Since then, the deadly respiratory disease -- which currently does not have a vaccine -- has widely spread in the country, where about 5,580 patients are still in isolation.
So far, 17 people in the country have been discharged after complete recovery, Yonhap reported. Only 1,100 cases of MERS, which was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, were reported across the world before the outbreak in South Korea.
Currently, 475 schools in the country remain closed, down from 2,600 schools and colleges that were shut down earlier this month.
The South Korean government has promised to provide over 400 billion won ($358 million) in emergency relief funds to help affected businesses and hospitals, Yonhap reported. The cabinet also approved 50.5 billion won from government reserves to help eradicate the disease.
Meanwhile, President Park Geun-hye appealed to people to let go of “groundless fears.”
"The daily lives of people and businesses must return to normal. I hope schools that are currently closed will also return to their normal schedules while intensifying their preventive measures," she said Monday after a meeting with her aides, according to Yonhap.