The financial damage that South Korea will have to bear from the ongoing coronavirus crisis is “almost unfathomable” compared with Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2015, health authorities said in a report released Sunday.
In the report submitted to the office of Rep. Yang Kyeong-sook, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the socioeconomic costs of the MERS outbreak at 10.8 trillion won ($9 billion). The disease sickened 186 people and caused 38 deaths in Korea from June to August 2015.
The current COVID-19 crisis will have a much more devastating impact, the KCDC said, as it has lasted longer and affected more people, taking a grave toll on the global economy as a whole.
“The effect of the MERS outbreak on the economy was a short-term one lasting for about three months,” the report said. “The socioeconomic damage from COVID-19 looks inestimably serious,” it added.
By Sunday, Korea had reported a total of 11,776 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 273 deaths. More than 115,000 Koreans were put under quarantine for two weeks.
During the MERS outbreak, infected people had to pay around 14 billion won in hospital bills. Those costs, combined with lost income from MERS deaths, totaled 32.9 billion won, the KCDC report said.
Compensation paid out to institutions that had to shut down during the outbreak reached 178.1 billion won, while another 14.2 billion won was spent on emergency support funds. Local governments spent 450 million won to assist families of the deceased with funeral expenses.
Local businesses lost around 6.22 trillion won, with 60.6 percent of that incurred by the restaurant industry, the accommodations sector, cultural services, the transportation industry and the retail sector.
Over 73,000 jobs could not be created during those three months as a result of the disease, while the amount of added value lost was around 4.4 trillion won, the KCDC said.
By Ko Jun-tae (email@example.com