South Korea offers insurance for tourists amid MERS-CoV outbreak
MANILA, Philippines – South Korea has established an insurance system for foreign tourists who wish to visit the country amid the MERS Coronavirus outbreak that began two months ago.
The insurance system, established by the Korean government in collaboration with the Korea Association of Travel Agents, automatically registers tourists who entered and will enter the country within 3 months from June 22 to September 21, 2015.
"This insurance system is in effect in order to further ensure the safe and pleasant travel of all tourists," Tourism Director-General Kim Chul-min said in a statement sent to reporters in the Philippines on Friday, July 24.
"We at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism hope that all tourists make many wonderful memories as they travel throughout Korea."
As of July 21, South Korea has recorded 186 infections and 36 deaths since the outbreak began on May 20. The good news is that between July 18 and July 21, the country has no reported additional cases and no new deaths. (READ: South Korea MERS virus outbreak 'large and complex' – WHO)
'No cause for panic'
But its tourism industry was hit particularly hard, with the number of foreign visitors plunging by over 40% in June compared to a year ago, and a further 60% in the first two weeks of July. (READ: 'Screen South Korean tourists amid MERS threat')
Seoul plans to spend up to 30 billion won on campaigns to lure back travellers including free promotional tours and large concerts by big-name K-Pop stars, Vice Tourism Minister Kim Chong told foreign reporters on Thursday, July 23.
"We are particularly eager to bring back Chinese tourists," Kim said.
The Korean government has taken measures to make tourists feel more at ease in the country.
This includes equipping hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and buses with hand sanitizer dispensers and thermometers. Sanitary control at major attractions has also been strengthened.
Tourists can also call the Korea Travel Hotline (tel: 1330) for information on emergency medical centers and interpretation services.
"Despite the caution raised by the recent spread of the MERS virus, there has been no cause for panic, and Korean citizens have continued living their daily lives as usual," Friday's statement read.
MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a fatal, influenza-like illness characterized by fever and cough, often with diarrhea.
Globally, the World Health Organization reported 1,368 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections since September 2012. At least 490 of these cases resulted in death. – with a report from Agency France-Presse/Rappler.com