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Seoul’s Economy Brought to Grinding Halt as MERS Panic Takes South Korea by Storm

Seoul, the bustling capital of South Korea, is now reportedly a “ghost town” due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak. The disease has killed over 10 people and sickened 126 others.

The Telegraph’s Andrew Salmon is based in Seoul. He visited a bar in the Gangnam market, in a typically high-trafficked neighborhood, and found only one table was in use. The owner told him business went down recently due to MERS.

Even though health officials said “confirmed cases have fallen sharply” and urged people to continue their regular activities, many choose to avoid contact with others. Officials canceled briefings on the World Military Games and a Japan-Korea goodwill noodle contest. Busy malls and restaurants are experiencing a drop in revenue.

“Customers are down by 70 per cent, everyone’s staying home,” explained an employee at Dragon’s Beard. “I am very sad.”

Over 54,000 foreigners have canceled trips to the city. Singapore Airlines told consumers the company “will waive cancellation fees and administration fees for refunds, rebookings and reroutings for customers holding tickets” to or from South Korea.

The government placed the 73 households of Jangduk, 173 miles south of Seoul, under quarantine. Baseball is the most popular sport in the country, but the stadiums remain half full. The subway generally transports four million people a day, but now average two million.

“After MERS hit, the number declined to 10 percent, which is 450,000 per day,” stated official Kim Kwang-Heum. “We usually fumigate trains once a week, but Seoul Metro has started doing that every day, to prevent the spread of MERS and protect passengers.”

In The Washington Post, Yoonjung Seo listed five activities for people to do in Seoul while staying home. All of these activities are hard to do when people venture outside, including the movies. Movie companies have even canceled opening days and promotional events.

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