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    Jun 10, 2015

    S'pore expands Mers checks on air travellers

    THE Ministry of Health (MOH) has started temperature screening of air travellers arriving from South Korea.

    This was launched in the light of the worsening Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) situation in South Korea and reports there of breaches of containment and quarantine measures, said MOH in a statement yesterday.

    The ministry has been carrying out temperature screening of air travellers from the Middle East since May last year.

    Temperature screening started at all air checkpoints at 7pm yesterday, The Straits Times reported.

    While there have been no cases of Mers infection here so far, the possibility of an imported case cannot be ruled out, MOH said.

    Temperature screening may not pick up all Mers cases as the virus has a relatively long incubation period of two weeks, during which there are no symptoms.

    "However, even if there is an imported case, the risk of an outbreak in our community remains low as sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has not been reported," said MOH.

    The ministry added that those travelling to Mers-affected areas should take simple precautions such as observing good hygiene.

    Those who have been to these places in the past fortnight should see a doctor if they feel unwell, and disclose their travel history at the consultation.

    They may then be isolated for up to 48 hours for observation and further investigation.

    Yesterday, South Korea reported its seventh death - that of a 68-year-old woman - from Mers while eight new cases brought the total number of infected people to 95, reported Agence France-Presse.

    "Public concerns are rising over the negative impact of the Mers outbreak on our economy and society," Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung Hwan said during a meeting with top health officials yesterday.

    "So we have decided to... launch an active, all-out response with the goal of ending the Mers crisis within this week," said Mr Choi, who is also Finance Minister.

    South Korean President Park Geun Hye has also called for an all-out national effort to eradicate the outbreak.

    Almost 2,900 people have been placed under quarantine - most of them in their own homes - in South Korea and nearly 2,200 schools have been closed because of the outbreak.

    All the infections so far have been restricted to hospitals, and South Korea's Health Ministry stressed that all seven who died had pre-existing health problems.

    The outbreak in South Korea is the largest outside Saudi Arabia following the diagnosis of the first patient in the country on May 20.

    Meanwhile, Hong Kong has issued a "red" alert, advising against non-essential travel to South Korea based on health reasons, reported Reuters.

    A red alert, the second-highest outbound travel advisory on a three-point scale, is defined as a "significant threat", according to the Hong Kong government.

    Seoul rejected the move, arguing that the World Health Organisation had not made such a recommendation.