An emergency briefing session regarding the SMG’s plan to prevent the spread of MERS
Venue: Seoul City Hall
I apologize for holding a briefing meeting for reporters at this late hour of the day. However, I think that the seriousness of the current situation demands a swift reaction. This evening, we at the SMG held an emergency meeting in consideration of the seriousness of the situation regarding the MERS patients located in Seoul.
On June 1, the 35th patient in Seoul tested positive for MERS. The fourth contraction from this patient appears to be a low possibility, but we will not preclude any possibility, and we will put a high priority on the protection of people’s lives and safety. The latest patient is a medical doctor who contacted the 14th patient. He started showing light symptoms on May 29, and the symptoms then worsened the following day. He attended a gathering in Gaepo-dong, where 1,565 people were present, on May 30. This means that a large number of people came to be exposed to the danger of MERS contraction.
The 35th patient was in many different places two days. It was only on May 30 that he was put in an isolation facility. He tested positive for MERS on June 1. The information was known to us at the SMG in the late afternoon of June 3, after an SMG official happened to take part in a meeting for discussion about MERS-related countermeasures held at the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW). We thereupon asked the MHW and the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention to publicize the fact and take countermeasures several times today.
The two agencies I have mentioned did not have accurate information on the 35th patient, the places he visited for the last two days, and the list of the 1,565 people at the gathering he attended. Later on, the MHW informed us that it would put the 1,565 people on passive surveillance.
We judged that a lukewarm measure like passive surveillance was not an adequate way to protect people’s safety. We managed to secure the list of the 1,565 people and handed it over to the two agencies just mentioned. We asked them once again to publicize the relevant materials and take a more active measure. On the evening of Friday, we came to the conclusion that we had to actively involve ourselves in the case.
This evening, we started taking action, informing each one of the 1,565 people of the situation and asking them to stay home to prevent the spread of the disease.
We intend to draw up a map of the 35th patient’s movements over the past few days and disclose it publicly, so that those who may have contacted him may take self-protective measures. We are also considering forcefully making the 1,565 people stay home for the greater cause of protecting people’s lives and safety.
We at the SMG will disclose all MERS-related information on a real-time basis. We will do everything within our power to prevent the spread of the disease, including taking stronger measures. I will lead the team myself.
Let us be united as one, as we have in prior emergencies. I am sure we can overcome the current crisis through concerted efforts no matter how serious it may be. We at the SMG will also join you. Thank you.