A doctor confirmed to have contracted Middle East respiratory syndrome has reportedly come into direct and indirect contact with more than 1,500 Seoul residents, said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon in an emergency press conference, raising speculation that the deadly virus has spread into the community.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Thursday, the 35th confirmed MERS patient, a doctor at a Seoul-based hospital, started to show minor symptoms of MERS last Friday, but still attended three large-scale conferences over the weekend. He was the doctor who treated the 14th confirmed MERS patient, the mayor said.
“On Saturday, the doctor attended the union meeting for the reconstruction of an apartment complex in Gaepo-dong, Seoul, which was attended by a total of 1,565 local people,” he said.
“He also attended two meetings of medical societies he is affiliated with on Saturday and Sunday, and visited several other public places,” he added.
The doctor also had dinner with his family at Garden Five, a shopping mall in southeastern Seoul, on Saturday evening .
After the doctor started to show more MERS symptoms on Sunday, he was instructed by authorities to quarantine himself Sunday evening. He was confirmed of the virus on the next day.
The mayor said he decided to release the information about the doctor after the health ministry rejected his request to share it. He also criticized the central government for not doing enough to contain the virus. The city government would seek its own way to protect citizens, he said.
“We have entered the crisis and this means that the central control tower to combat MERS has collapsed,” he said.
To contain the spread of the virus, the city government secured the list of people who attended the conference and sent warnings to all of the participants. The city government has requested them to quarantine themselves and visit public clinics nearby.
As of Thursday evening, South Korea has seen three MERS deaths and more than 1,600 people have been placed in quarantine.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)