The Government today (August 1) decided to lower the response level of the Preparedness Plan for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) from “Serious” to “Alert” based on the latest risk assessment of the MERS situation in Korea. The Department of Health (DH) has also lifted the travel health advice to avoid unnecessary travel to Korea.
The response level was raised to “Serious” and the travel health advice was issued to Hong Kong residents on June 8 due to the widespread outbreaks of MERS in healthcare institutions in Korea and the imminent risk posed to Hong Kong at that time.
“The number of new cases occurring in Korea each day has declined significantly since late June. The last confirmed case was isolated in hospital on July 3. The decline has coincided with much stronger contact tracing, monitoring and quarantine, suggesting that disease control measures in Korea are working. According to the World Health Organization, the epidemiological pattern of the outbreak in Korea was similar to hospital-associated outbreaks that have occurred in the Middle East and there is no evidence of sustained community transmission of MERS-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Korea,” a spokesman for the DH said.
According to the current practice, the transmission of MERS-CoV in healthcare institutions in Korea is considered to have ceased as there has been no new case detected within two maximum incubation periods (i.e. 28 days in total) after isolation of the last case on July 3.
“Since the activation of the Serious Response Level on June 8, as of noon yesterday (July 31), 403 suspected MERS cases had been reported to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the DH under the enhanced surveillance, and all of them tested negative for MERS-CoV. The surveillance system of local public and private hospitals has not detected any MERS cases so far. We will continue to closely monitor the global MERS situation,” the spokesman added.
“Locally, doctors should however pay attention to patients who travelled to Korea on or before July 31 who develop compatible symptoms within 14 days as they still meet the reporting criteria and are required to be promptly notified to the CHP. We will issue letters to doctors and hospitals on the updated affected areas and reporting criteria,” the spokesman said.