South Korea had been facing an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which killed 36 people since the first case was diagnosed on May 20, 2015. The hospital at the epicenter of South Korea's deadly MERS outbreak, Samsung Medical Center in southern Seoul, started to resume normal operations, as health officials moved closer to declaring a formal end to a crisis that triggered widespread panic and choked the local economy.
The past two weeks have seen no new reported MERS cases. Of the total 186 reported cases, nearly half were diagnosed at the Samsung Medical Center, one of the top hospitals in the country. The MERS outbreak at the facility, which belongs to South Korea's giant, family-run Samsung conglomerate, prompted the company's heir apparent Jay. Y. Lee to publicly apologize last month for causing great pain and concern.
Among those infected were 13 medical staff of the hospital. Administrators partially shut down the center on June 14, 2015, to focus exclusively on dealing with MERS patients. But with the outbreak effectively over, the hospital announced that it had begun a step-by-step resumption of services for its existing patients.
The hospital's website revealed that treatment for new patients and emergency room services will be normalized early next month. The South Korean health authorities initially withheld the names of facilities where the MERS virus had been detected, partly in an effort to prevent business losses. The secrecy was heavily criticized for prompting infected people to visit different hospitals to obtain second or third opinions, furthering the spread of the virus.