Four new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on Tuesday 16th June to bring the total number of cases in South Korea to 154 with 19 deaths in what is now the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia.
While some countries such as Taiwan and Hong Kong are considering pulling their athletes from the games - which run from 3rd to 14th July 2015 - both FISU and the Gwangju Summer Universiade Organizing Committee (GUOC) remain defiant, claiming the "greatest precautions" are being taken and promising that the games will not be affected.
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"The virus continues to be clustered around health facilities and there is no evidence it is circulating in the community. We stress that FISU and GUOC are taking all measures to make sure this virus does not affect the Summer Universiade," said Lawrence D. Rink, chairman of the FISU medical committee.
In support of its bullish stance, FISU outlined how their Medical Committee had effectively handled viral outbreaks such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the past.
FISU had also previously confirmed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) was closely monitoring the situation in South Korea and had yet to advise entry screening, nor had it recommended any application of travel or trade restrictions.
But the South Korean government has since implemented a red travel alert, which advises visitors against non-essential travel to the country. Some local citizens now feel the games should be postponed until the health concerns have past, taking to the Gwangju City Hall website to voice their concerns.
One such 'netizen' wrote on an online forum: "Even if they go ahead with it, it's not going to create much international interest or economic gain. If anyone does contract (MERS) during the event, it could hurt Gwangju's reputation. It's something they should give thought to when they have the time."
The city itself is closely monitoring the situation, with heat sensors set up at three major gateways - Gwangju Airport, the Gwangju Songjeong train station, and the Gwangju bus terminal - to prevent the virus from entering when infected individuals enter the country or athletes’ village. Athletes are scheduled to begin arriving in the village on June 26, but may start arriving as soon as June 20 to adapt to venue conditions.
Of the 12,200 university athletes from 131 countries who are scheduled to take part in the games, around 400 participants are from eight countries in the Middle East. This does not include Saudi Arabia, which had already ruled itself out of the Summer University due to the overlap with the Islamic month of Ramadam.
The 2015 Summer Universiade is due to get under way on Friday 3rd July following an Opening Ceremony at the Universiade main stadium in Gwangju, 330 kilometres south of the South Korean capital of Seoul.
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