Koreans Resort to Self-Help as MERS Spreads

      June 05, 2015 11:25

      Koreans are resorting to self-help as the death toll from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome rises and more than 1,600 potential carriers have been isolated either at home or in state-run quarantine centers.

      The development comes amid mounting skepticism over the effectiveness of state health officials in stemming the spread of the deadly respiratory illness.

      Staffers sanitize a subway train in Seoul on Thursday.

      A website popped up Thursday "outing" the hospitals across the nation that have treated MERS patients so worried patients can avoid them. The government has so far refused to reveal the names and locations of the hospitals.

      A map on the website shows around a dozen red markers in the Seoul metropolitan area and descriptions of the individual hospitals. The operator of the website said, "We’ve received the information via e-mail and made sure it can be proven to ensure credibility."

      The operator added that hospitals will be removed from the list if five separate pieces of evidence refute a link to MERS. It is unclear whether the website can be trusted entirely, but it is clearly popular and crashed twice in the past three to four days due to increased traffic.

      Sales of hand sanitizers, medical masks and other related products on online shopping sites are going through the roof. One shopping portal sold all of its inventory of the kind of space suits worn by quarantine officials.

      One buyer said, "I bought one because we could end up with a massive epidemic like you see in the movies."

      Traders are selling epidemic packs of hand sanitizers, surgical masks and thermometers for W40,000 to W50,000 (US$1=W1,112). Purchases are limited to eight per person, but they still sold out in three days. Shoppers are now turning to U.S. websites for disinfectant soaps.

      A street lined with private crammers in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul is sparsely populated on Thursday.

      Students are also opting to take after-school classes online rather than going to crammer. Neighborhoods packed with crammers in Daechi-dong, Gangnam and Noryangjin in Seoul were eerily quiet on Thursday.

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