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To the Churches in South Korea concerning the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus

It is with concern that we hear of the outbreak of MERS in South Korea following the identification of the first case on 20th May 2015, coming from an unfortunate traveller who had recently visited an affected area in the Middle East.

16 June 2015

Geneva, June 16, 2015


To the Churches in South Korea concerning the outbreak of the
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus

It is with concern that we hear of the outbreak of MERS in South Korea following the identification of the first case on 20th May 2015, coming from an unfortunate traveller who had recently visited an affected area in the Middle East.

This situation is of concern for a number of reasons:

• It is a new virus for S-Korea and thus the medical staff were not anticipating that this was anything more than a typical, though more severe, respiratory illness.

• Though this virus seems less infectious than SARS, the past experiences of SARS have created an abundance of caution and widespread fear. Fear, if not dealt with in an informed way, can lead to irrational responses way out of proportion to the risks involved and causing rejection and social damage. There is a real need to adhere to sound advice given by the health authorities and not to respond in a panic mode, which serves no purpose and may make the situation worse.

• Yet again, the world is faced with a potentially very serious infectious condition and yet again, we are caught empty handed with no available therapeutic treatment or effective vaccine. We ask why? Is it truly because the major financial investment of pharmaceutical companies in developing such treatment or vaccine is considered too excessive for a disease that affects only a few hundred people with each outbreak? Is it lack of global political will to address conditions that may be a world health concern yet, because of the geographical location, are not considered to be a world health problem? What does it take to bring countries together to respond collaboratively, and to overcome ideological and other barriers that divide us, to bring an end to those conditions that potentially may affect us all, for ‘if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.’

We thus remember those who have succumbed to this virus. To their families, we extend our sincere condolences, especially as this event happened so swiftly and they must be feeling very traumatised.

To the many who are currently quarantined, and to their families and friends fearful of the outcome, we extend our support and solidarity, joining with them in prayer for a swift healthy outcome.

To the medical staff responding to each and every case of respiratory infections, MERS and otherwise, who are fearful of their own safety, we acknowledge their professional and compassionate service and trust that the careful observation of public health recommendations for barrier care will afford them the protection they need.

To the international community with an ethical and moral responsibility for the health and well- being of all the global citizens, wherever they are located, we commend you for your current efforts but urge you to make a greater commitment both in technical expertise and with the necessary financial resources to make appropriate treatment and prevention swiftly available.

We remain in prayerful solidarity with you all.


Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary