SEOUL • South Korean President Park Geun-Hye yesterday replaced her health minister who was widely blamed for the government’s poor response to an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) that killed 36 people in the country.

Mr Moon Hyong-Pyo, who had offered to step down after apologising for the public anxiety caused by the biggest Mers outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, was replaced by Professor Chung Chin-Youb from the Seoul National University Hospital.

The Cabinet change came a week after South Korea declared an effective end to the Mers outbreak, with one patient still being treated in hospital.

No new Mers infections have been reported since July 4, but World Health Organisation standards call for a four-week waiting period after the last Mers patient fully recovers before declaring that an outbreak is over.

Thousands of schools were closed at the peak of the outbreak. The government brought in sweeping quarantine measures and confined nearly 17,000 people to their homes. The outbreak also took a heavy toll on the economy, stifling consumer spending and tourism.