MERS South Korean shops record low sales as surgical masks sell out amidst outbreak

South Korean businesses, including shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas, have reported a sharp drop in sales as people shun public venues with large crowds.

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play Employees from Korean Air disinfect the interior of the airplane in Incheon (Reuters)
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The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea is beginning to take its toll on businesses in the country as the Bank of Korea governor announced a cut of its benchmark rate to 1.5%.

The bank governor, Lee Ju-yeol said slowing exports and threats to business from MERS were central to the decision, so as to curb any negative impact on the economy.

Lee said the deadly outbreak was having a negative impact on consumer spending, hence he  thought it was desirable to act pre-emptively.

According to Reuters, South Korean businesses, including shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas, have reported a sharp drop in sales as people shun public venues with large crowds.

Also, the Korean Tourism Board announced that over 54,000 foreign travellers have cancelled planned trips to the country so far this month.

However,  the spokesperson for the World Health Organization-South Korea joint mission on MERS, Alison Clements-Hunt, said WHO did not recommend any sort of travel ban at this time.

This came as Hong Kong issued a "red alert" warning against non-essential travel to South Korea for health reasons.

Meanwhile surgical masks are reportedly sold out as people don them to protect themselves from the deadly virus.

This will be the highest MERS outbreak outside the Middle East since it was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Currently, the total number of cases have risen to 122 and over 2,800 people have been quarantined.

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