South Korean authorities will track the cellphones of hundreds of people under quarantine to prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and reported a fifth death in the outbreak, with the number of infections rising to 64.
The government, criticized over its lack of transparency in handling the outbreak, bowed to public pressure on Sunday and identified 24 health facilities where infections took place or MERS patients visited.
It reported 14 confirmed new cases of MERS, adding to the largest number outside of the Middle East.
"Please understand this is an unavoidable measure for the sake of our neighbors and families," Deputy Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan told a news briefing in the central city of Sejong, where he announced the plan to track the mobile phones of people under quarantine to ensure they stay at home.
Nearly 2,000 people in South Korea are under quarantine, some in health care facilities but most at home, including an entire village of about 105 people in the southwest after a resident who visited a hospital where the country's first patient with MERS was treated turned out to be infected.
Late last month, a South Korean man broke a voluntary house quarantine and flew to Hong Kong and then traveled to mainland China, where he tested positive for MERS.
South Korea's outbreak of the often-deadly MERS virus, first reported on May 20, has prompted fear and the closure last week of more than 1,000 schools, with thousands of tourists canceling plans to visit the country.
"We can absolutely control this because all MERS cases in our country are infections in health facilities, not spreading into communities," Choi said.
First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. But MERS has a much higher death rate at 38 percent, according to World Health Organization figures.