Hong Kong has raised a travel advisory on South Korea to “serious”, with more deaths being reported from an outbreak of the deadly MERS virus in the country.
Health authorities are warning the public to avoid non-essential travel to South Korea where the death toll has risen to seven and eight new infections have been reported.
Altogether, 95 have been taken ill, according to Reuters.
MERS is short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome first reported in 2012 and linked mostly to Saudi Arabia.
Hong Kong’s health response level is the highest since the South Korean outbreak, although it is not an official outbound travel alert, Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday, citing Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man.
More than 5,000 people travel between Hong Kong and South Korea every day.
“We are very concerned about the MERS outbreaks in South Korea and the Middle East,” Ko said.
“We understand that Hong Kong people are particularly worried about the current situation in Korea.”
Ko said the health department has been in contact with the Security Bureau over travel-related risks to Hong Kong.
Among the 23 new cases were a teenage student from Seoul and a patient in the southern city of Busan.
Ko said the Busan case shows the risk of a wider outbreak has considerably increased.
Passengers who cancel their travel plans for South Korea cannot get a refund from tour operators because the health advisory is not an official travel alert, said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council.
Airlines will not reimburse ticket holders automatically but the travel advisory can be used in negotiations over such refunds, he said.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng said his department will send letters to all schools to remind them about the travel health advisory.
From today, all hospital visitors are required to wear masks. Visiting hours will be limited to two hours.
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