The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cluster in South Korea has expanded even more over the weekend and the situation is being talked about at the highest levels of government in the Asian nation.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)/Cynthia Goldsmith; Azaibi Tamin
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)/Cynthia Goldsmith; Azaibi Tamin

First, the Korean Health & Human Welfare Department has reported (computer translated) an additional three cases of patients confirmed positive for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). This brings the total cases to 18.

The first case was reported in a South Korean man who contracted the novel coronavirus while on business in Bahrain in late May.

In addition, health officials report that some 680 people are currently under observation in isolation.

Over the weekend, Health Minister Moon Hyung-Pyo apologized for failing to halt an outbreak. The health minister promised “utmost efforts” to curb the spread of the disease.

Criticisms of the handling of the growth in the cluster of cases of MERS has drawn the ire of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. “The initial response to MERS… was insufficient,” Park told a meeting of aides a day after the health minister’s apology.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 1154 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 434 related deaths.