Mers death toll rises to 16 in South Korea as total cases hits 150

There are 150 people who have contracted Mers in South Korea

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The number of deaths as a result of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) has risen to 16 in South Korea after another patient died.

With five new cases of the virus reported today by the Health Ministry, 150 people have now contracted Mers, Reuters reported.

But this morning, thousands of schools in South Korea reopened in an effort for the country to return to normality. Although at least 440 remained shut today, the figure was considerably less than the 2,900 that were closed on Friday.

South Korea's President, Park Geun-hye, also called for the country to return to normality: “I ask the business community, too, to continue to go on with investment, production and management activities as normal and particularly help with ensuring that consumers don’t hold back from spending money.”

More than 70 cases of Mers have been traced back to the Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul. The hospital has suspended most of its services as a result.

Yesterday, the hospital's president, Song Jae-hoon, said: “We apologise for causing great concern as Samsung Medical Centre became the centre of the spread of Mers."

“This is entirely our responsibility and failing, as we did not properly manage emergency-room staff," the BBC reported him as saying. A review of the suspension of services will take place on 24 June.

More than 5,500 people who may have been exposed to the virus at the Samsung Medical Centre were being moved to quarantine said the Health Ministry, according to Reuters.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization said that a joint mission by the body and the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare to review Mers “recommended that continuing strengthening of contact tracing, monitoring and quarantine as well as expanded laboratory testing will prevent further spread of the virus”.

The mission found no evidence that the virus was circulating in the community. “However, continued monitoring for this is critical,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security, adding that studies of the virus had not shown it to have changed “to make itself more transmissible” between humans.