By Jung Min-ho

The central and local governments vowed Sunday to cooperate to contain the epidemic of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which is in danger of getting out of control.

Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo and heads of four local governments in the virus-affected areas ?Seoul, Daejeon and Gyeonggi and South Chungcheong provinces ?agreed to share information to fight the deadly disease.

Most notably, local governments are now allowed to officially confirm whether people have been infected with MERS, which was the responsibility solely of the ministry previously.

This came three days after Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon openly criticized the ministry for “failing to share enough information” about MERS.

“The ministry and the local governments agreed to cooperate to contain the MERS as early as possible,” Moon said during a press briefing at the government complex in Sejong City. “We will support all the public and private institutions working together with us. ”

Working-level officials from the central and local governments will soon form a team for joint measures.

Park said he is “relieved” that the ministry accepted his request, though he feels it is “a little overdue. ”

“The best policy for coping with MERS is transparency,” he said. “I think the failure of the ministry’s initial response stemmed from its secrecy. ”

Park also urged MERS-affected hospitals in Seoul, including Samsung Medical Center, to work with the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“What the city government is worried about is that the disease might spread to local communities,” he said. “It is important to dispel public concerns.”

Park’s earlier comments about the ministry drew both praise and criticism from the public. It also prompted other heads of local governments, including Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, to raise their own critical voices.

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