S. Korea sees extra $9B in spending to handle MERS outbreak

South Korea has set out plans to spend an additional KRW10 trillion ($9 billion) to manage the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) that has afflicted 179 and caused 27 deaths since May, news reports said.

"The government has told us (KRW)5 trillion of the budget will be used to make up for tax deficits, while (KRW)5 trillion and some more will be for extra spending," main Saenuri Party floor leader Yoo Seung-min was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The spending plan comes as two major hospitals in South Korea's capital suspended services to patients, Agence France-Presse reported.

South Korea President Park Geun-hye

The report comes as the heir-apparent of South Korea's massive Samsung Group--which runs one of the hospitals, the Samsung Medical Center--bowed in apology during a nationally televised address on Tuesday for shortcomings in containing the spread of MERS, Reuters said.

South Korea's MERS outbreak has been traced to a businessman who returned last month from the Middle East. The spread has hit the economy, leading the Bank of Korea to cut interest rates to a record low and raising concern of a wider regional spread.

The outbreak in South Korea has led to a scramble by regional government to screen at airports and other border crossing points and for easier detection methods and novel treatment options. One report said that a diagnostic reagent that can complete a test for MERS in just 15 minutes has been developed in China.

- here is the story from the Economic Times/Reuters
- here's more coverage from Reuters
- get more from Xinhua
- and even more from Yahoo/AFP