People, Travel

Hong Kong Issues “Red Alert” Against S. Korea Trave

Hong Kong Issues “Red Alert” Against S. Korea TraveHong Kong Issues “Red Alert” Against S. Korea Trave

lHong Kong officials have issued a red alert warning against travel to South Korea in response to the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

According to the BBC, Hong Kong residents have been advised to cancel all non-essential travel to South Korea. 

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, and means people should “adjust travel plans” and “avoid non-essential travel”.

The outbreak, which began last month, is the biggest outside of the Middle East since the virus was first discovered in Saudi Arabia three years ago. Already it has infected nearly 100 people, killing seven. Eight new cases were confirmed on Tuesday following nearly two dozen on Monday.

So far, the infections are being linked to hospitals.

What makes the outbreak so chilling is that more than one-third (36 percent) of reported patients with MERS have died because there is no vaccine or specific treatment that helps patients improve.

Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. In some cases, MERS can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

Officials also advised travelers who visit South Korea in spite of the warning to “avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities.” The red alert, which is the second-highest level, also advised travelers to take precautions that include wearing a mask and washing their hands routinely.

Britain’s Foreign Office, however, said it will monitor the situation in South Korea, before considering changing its travel advisory to the Asian country, IBTimes reporeted.

“Hong Kong probably have more concern,” said a UK Foreign Office spokesperson, citing the higher number of travellers from the Chinese island to South Korea. “We don’t issue red alerts. If it were to escalate, I imagine we would issue something,” the office added. Around 100,000 British nationals visit South Korea every year.

In South Korea, efforts to curtail the spread of the virus are ongoing. According to CNN, more than 2,800 people who may have come in contact with MERS have been quarantined and more than 2,000 schools have been closed.

Hong Kong released six South Koreans from quarantine on Tuesday after they passed the two-week incubation period and tested negative for MERS, while four other South Koreans were released from quarantine in south China.