On MERS alert!
Sri Lankans in South Korea safe, but extreme caution
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has claimed 10
lives and affected another 122 is spreading fast, especially in South
Korea. Where 2,890 have been quarantined. Should there be cause for
concern here? Have any Sri Lankans working in South Korea been affected
with the syndrome?
Wearing masks as a safety
precaution to prevent the spread of MERS - www. gettyimages.com
Officials at the Sri Lankan embassy in Seoul have urged Sri Lankans
working and living in South Korea to be cautious about MERS, but have
requested all Sri Lankan workers to reprt to work as there is no reason
to panic. Krishantha Kumarasiri, Press Secretary, of the Sri Lankan
embassy in Seoul told the Sunday Observer, that the Embassy in South
Korea has issued strict warnings to Sri Lankan migrant workers and the
expatriate community of a possible escalation of MERS and the
precautionary measures that should be adopted to curb the spread. He
also said WHO had initiated vigorous programs to stem the spread of the
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said
they receive reports from the Embassy in South Korea from time to time
of the situation and so far no Sri Lankan has been infected with the
No travel restrictions
She said those suspected of having contracted the virus were
quarantined in hospitals, others who have mild symptoms have been
requested to remain at home."The embassy has informed us that no travel
restrictions have been issued by the South Korean authorities. There is
absolutely no necessity to evacuate anyone from the country. The Embassy
has also issued a MERS prevention guidance to Sri Lankans living in
South Korea, she added.
Meanwhile, Kumarasiri said the Embassy had informed the Foreign
Ministry that there was no need for the workers to panic and leave the
country, excepting that sending people for employment at present could
be put on hold.
A spokesman for the Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry
said all Sri Lankans were safe and have reported to work as usual.
"From time time, we inform the Foreign Ministry about the current
situation and about the Sri Lankans in South Korea. There are five
million foreigners in South Korea including 30,000 Sri Lankans. We send
daily updates to the Foreign Ministry. So far only South Koreans have
been infected by the virus," Kumarasiri said.
He said three main hospitals in Seoul and 36 provincial hospitals are
providing treatment for MERS patients and that the WHO team in South
Korea is providing assistance to the affected hospitals. Last week a
MERS infected pregnant woman was identified. The South Korean Government
has taken steps to control the spread," he said, adding there is a fear
that the number would increase, because it is a highly contagious
He also said Sri Lankans have been given emergency hotline numbers of
the Embassy, Health Ministry and other tourism organizations, so that
they could contact in the event of an emergency.
"The Embassy has 6,000 facebook contacts. We have contact with
community groups and community leaders so there is no need to panic," he
said, adding we have also given a list of medical centres that should
not be visited and if they have done so in the recent past, they should
have a double check at a different hospital and clear any doubts."
Another important issue was if they had travelled to any Middle
Eastern country in the last 14 days, they should do a medical checkup
and clear themselves, he said.
Kumarasiri said CCTV cameras monitor patients turning up at hospitals
and their details are maintained. "Any suspicion of having contracted
the disease could easily be traced and they could be quarantined."
Fever, cough and shortness of breath are MERS symptoms. Other
symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Pneumonia is also
common among those who have contracted the virus.
Washing the hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,
using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not
available, covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or
sneeze, avoiding touching the eyes eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed
hands, avoiding personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing cups or
eating utensils, with sick people and cleaning and disinfect frequently
touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs are the steps to prevent