S. Korea moves to calm MERS fears as regional caution remains

On Monday, South Korea moved to reopen schools shut last week on concerns of a wider spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) even as the health ministry reported 5 new cases and regional governments kept up precautions, according to Today newspaper.

A total of 16 fatalities and 150 cases have been reported since the start of an outbreak in May traced to a health worker returning from Saudi Arabia.

But officials said that with all cases traced to healthcare facilities and four hospitals shut completely or partially--efforts to stop the spread have gathered pace, Today said, citing a statement by President Park Geun-hye.

South Korea President Park Geun-hye

"I ask the business community, too, to continue to go on with investment, production and management activities as normal and particularly help with ensuring that consumers don't hold back from spending money," she told a meeting of senior aides, according to Today. The Bank of Korea late last week cut its benchmark interest rate 25 basis points to a record low 1.5% in partial response to the MERS outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the cases in South Korea are part of a "large and complex" outbreak that has prompted regional governments such as China, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan among others to screen passengers on arrival for high temperatures.

Taiwan has also warned travelers to avoid the country if the travel is not essential.

On Saturday, the WHO cited shortcomings in South Korea's early response to MERS and urged better communication by the government.

- here's a story from Today
- and more from China National News