President Park Nominates New Health Minister After MERS Scare

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided to replace her health minister after the government was criticized for its poor handling of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak that killed 36 people and infected 186 people, reports Reuters.

Last week, South Korea declared itself virtually free of MERS, as there were no new cases of the virus in three weeks. The infections could be traced back to a 68-year-old businessman who returned to Seoul from the Middle East, where the coronavirus was first identified, in May.

More than 17,000 people in Korea were quarantined as the virus continued to spread through hospitals. Thousands of schools in Seoul were also closed during the peak of the outbreak.

South Korean media have criticized Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo for withholding the names of the hospitals that had handled MERS patients, which led to nationwide panic and confusion. Seoul citizens also voiced their complaints over the government’s failure to swiftly contain the virus in its early stages.

President Park nominated Chung Chin-youb, a local medical professor and orthopedic surgeon, to replace Moon as health minister, according to a statement issued by Park’s office on Tuesday. The statement described Chung as someone who can “strengthen public health care,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

Although Chung is required to go through a confirmation hearing, his nomination does not need parliamentary approval.

MERS usually does not spread so easily, but health experts suspect that South Korean patients’ habit of “doctor shopping,” the practice of seeking care at multiple hospitals to treat the same illness, may have contributed to the widespread transmission. Last week, South Korea’s health ministry said it plans to establish a new system that will require all hospital visitors to register at the entrance in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks in medical facilities.

See Also


South Koreans Develop MERS Info-Sharing Tools

South Korea Declares Itself Free of MERS Danger


Featured image via Yonhap

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