Power keeping it simple in title bid

Never before has Will Power been this close to finally securing an IndyCar championship.

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The 33-year-old Australian heads into this weekend’s 500-mile season finale in California with a healthy 51-point lead in the series and knows a sixth-place finish or better will land him the title.

It’s the fourth time Power has led the championship going into the final race of a campaign after the 2011 finale was cancelled due to the tragic death of British driver Dan Wheldon mid-race.

While those past three attempts have ended in heartbreak, in none of those battles was he this far ahead nor as strong as he has made himself on the American-style oval circuits.

Power himself says he’s just taking a simple keep-it-clean approach after crashes in the 2010 and 2012 finales to cost himself any chance of becoming the first Australian to win an IndyCar title.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to be there at the end to have a shot,” Power said.

“Make sure you’re there at the end and that you have a competitive car. They’re the two things that will really help me win the championship.”

The Toowoomba product could already have held an even greater lead going into this weekend’s race, dominating the early stages of the Grand Prix of Sonoma last Sunday (Monday AM AEST) before a costly spin midway through the race left him to battle to a 10th-place finish.

Power says that unforced error was a wake-up call if any was needed that nothing is assured until he crosses the finish line under lights at the two-mile D-shaped Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The Team Penske driver actually claimed his first full-length oval race win at the venue in 2013 but says that victory won’t count for much going into Saturday evening’s (Sunday midday AEST) race.

“Obviously it was definitely a great finish to the year last year, but it’s a different field, and actually things just get tougher and tougher all the time in this series,” he said.

“Winning last year definitely doesn’t make me feel comfortable going in. I know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a very good race to win the championship, so I’m just, like I said, focusing on the things I can control.

“Just aim for a top 5 finish, absolutely.”

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Myer says consumer gloom is a challenge

Myer sees gloomy shoppers as a challenge after posting a disappointing flat first quarter result and losing womenswear sales.

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But the department store’s chief executive Bernie Brookes insists Myer can capitalise on the busy Christmas sales period, despite a key economic indicator showing consumers are at their most pessimistic since the global financial crisis.

“The consumers’ ability to spend their discretionary income with us has been a challenge for quite a few years,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The retailer’s total sales rose by just 0.1 per cent for the 13 weeks to October 25, compared with the same period in 2013.

The $691.6 million result was well shy of market analysts’ expectations of a 2.5-3.0 per cent increase, sparking a sharp drop in Myer’s share price.

“They are a big disappointment. That’s the only polite way of saying it,” IG market strategist Evan Lucas said.

Womenswear, which comprises about a fifth of Myer’s sales, faltered with Mr Brookes blaming foreign competition and marketing.

“We’ve had four-and-a-half years of womenswear being one of our two or three best performing categories so, therefore, a quarter where it’s performed a little disappointing is not a great concern for us,” he said.

Mr Lucas said womenswear was Myer’s bread and butter.

“The fact that it is underperforming would be a major concern for them,” he said, adding the department store could be losing customers to online and specialty stores.

Mr Brookes said rising living costs were more likely to dent the earnings of Myer and its rivals in poorer suburbs, as the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute barometer of consumer sentiment showed pessimists outnumbering optimists in October for the longest time since the GFC.

But Mr Lucas said Myer was performing even worse than rival David Jones did before South African retail giant Woolworths Holdings took it over, adding Myer’s falling share price made it an attractive prospective for a private equity buyer.

“People are now running out of belief that the turnaround sales are there,” he said.

During the past year, Myer has closed stores in at Elizabeth, in northern Adelaide, and Dandenong in outer Melbourne.

But its refurbished Adelaide city store has made South Australia a top-performing state.

Myer has also recently re-opened stores at Indooroopilly, in Brisbane, and in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre.

It also has opened a new store at Mount Gravatt, also in Brisbane.

Myer shares fell 14 cents, or 7.4 per cent, to a two-year low of $1.76.

CASH REGISTER ACTIVITY

* Comparable store first quarter sales up 0.7pct

* Cosmetics, toys, childrenswear and menswear were the strongest sales performers

* Lego, Nike, R.M. Williams and Trent Nathan sales highlighted

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Death will affect NASCAR driver ‘forever’

NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart says that the death of Kevin Ward Jr.

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will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said.

“It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

“I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident – it remains under police investigation – and he left the news conference after reading a short statement.

Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 per cent” Stewart’s decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an August 9 sprint car event in upstate New York.

Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward’s death, has been in seclusion ever since.

Stewart’s only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart.

The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tyre and hurtled through the air, dying of blunt force trauma.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart, though the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.”

Since Ward’s death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle – unless it is on fire – until safety personnel arrive.

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Global tax system in need of updating

G20 leaders and finance ministers will receive guidelines on tackling multinational tax avoidance from the OECD at meetings in Turkey later this year.

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Australian Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan told a Senate committee on Tuesday the existing international tax architecture was developed in the early 1920s and depended on physical presence in a country.

“With the digital delivery in a lot of services that is a growing part of our consumption … that old framework is being relied upon to assert that there is no taxing right in Australia,” Mr Jordan said.

The government flagged in the budget that it would be implementing the OECD’s country-by-country tax reporting from January 1, 2016.

Multinationals will be required to provide a global picture of their operations including income and tax paid in every country they operate.

The information will be shared among tax authorities worldwide.

The government will also work with business to develop a code on public disclosure of greater tax information by large corporates.

Treasury deputy secretary Rob Heferen said this was the first attempt by the government at a voluntary compliance code.

“If that doesn’t work then we will revisit the issue and possibly go another path,” he said.

Greens senator Christine Milne said she couldn’t understand the need to consult with business for two years rather than the tax office just applying it.

Mr Heferen said the government has tabled draft laws giving the tax commissioner powers to pursue profits shifted to another country from activity that should have been taxed in Australia.

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Ricciardo in love with Montreal’s F1 track

Daniel Ricciardo is in love.

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He can’t get enough of the curves, kisses and screams.

Of Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, that is.

The track was the site of his maiden Formula One victory and is the venue for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

“Winning has made me love it a little bit more, but really I’ve loved it since my first lap back when I was driving for Toro Rosso,” the Australian said in his race preview.

“I remember coming back into the pits and saying `what a circuit’. I was amazed at how good it was – and I’d only done an install (lap).”

The ability to jump across the kerbs and bounce the car around makes it a “ridiculous” amount of fun, Ricciardo says, which reminds him of his go-kart days.

“And I love that,” he said.

“You can get aggressive with it, and aim to just brush the wall.

“Some guys will play it safe and sacrifice half a 10th (of a second) to get through there cleanly; others will take a risk and go flat out trying to find a little bit.

“The nearer you are, the faster you’ll go. Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good; kiss it too hard and that’s it.

“It’d be wonderful if you were doing it in isolation but with 100,000 screaming fans urging you on, it’s just mega.”

It’s unlikely Ricciardo will be in contention for a second straight win at the venue, given Red Bull’s form in 2015.

There’s also a possibility he could be forced to wear a 10-spot grid penalty if the team decides to change his engine for a fifth time this year.

The 25-year-old finished fifth last start at Monaco, his best result this season, behind junior teammate Daniil Kvyat in fourth.

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Big day looms for Aussies in NBA

Andrew Bogut couldn’t resist a dig but there’s no doubting how glad his Golden State Warriors are that Klay Thompson is set to play game one of the NBA Finals.

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All Star guard Thompson, who forms a lethal shooting combination with team-mate Stephen Curry, has been monitored for concussion since being kneed in the head in last week’s Western Conference Finals series-clinching victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

He only returned to training on Monday but was confident he was over the concussion and would be passed fit by doctors.

“I expect to be,” Thompson, when asked if he will be cleared to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. “I’m well on my way there.”

Warriors’ Australian centre Andrew Bogut joked that he wasn’t sure if the notoriously laid-back Thompson was concussed or not.

“Hard to tell,” Bogut said.

“Pre and post concussion symptoms, he’s the same.”

Bogut has been full of one-liners in his chats with reporters in the lead-up to game one.

Tip-off is 11am AEST Friday and, with fellow Victorian Matthew Dellavedova suiting up for the Cavaliers, Bogut suggested Australia should mark the occasion.

“It should be a public holiday,” he said.

Two other Australians, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, helped the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Championship in 2014, but this year will be the first time two Australians face each other in the finals.

Bogut was in Melbourne last year during the Finals series after suffering a cracked rib and the undermanned Warriors bowed out early from the playoffs.

He said there was so much interest in the Spurs’ NBA Championship run that waiters in Melbourne restaurants would go AWOL to watch the game “out the back” on TV instead of bringing him food for his 213cm body.

“Everywhere you went to eat for lunch everything was slow because everyone was glued to the TV screen and everyone was talking about the NBA which was really cool,” he said.

“Hopefully that happens again.”

Bogut expects there will be nerves among both teams.

“Obviously the first quarter of game one there’s probably going to be some sprayed shots and nerves there because it’s human nature,” he said.

“Not just the whole country, but the whole world will be watching.”

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Melbourne’s archbishop defends Pell

Cardinal George Pell is a world leader in addressing child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and doesn’t deserve to have his character attacked, the Archbishop of Melbourne says.

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Denis Hart has offered a passionate defence of his colleague and friend Cardinal Pell, who will return from the Vatican later this year to appear before the second round of Ballarat hearings of the abuse royal commission.

Archbishop Hart says claims Cardinal Pell helped cover up pedophile activity in Australia couldn’t be further from the truth.

He’s rejected claims by a member of Pope Francis’s child protection commission, British abuse survivor Peter Saunders, who has called on the pope to sack Cardinal Pell as the Vatican’s financial chief.

“When he became Archbishop, he introduced the first system for dealing with child sex abuse, trying to bring relief to victims, trying to bring care and also some financial compensation,” Archbishop Hart told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“He was a world leader in this regard.”

Archbishop Hart said Mr Saunders is just one member of a 17-member panel tasked with addressing child protection issues within the church.

“He does not have a brief, he’s not the commissioner. He’s a member of a committee which is responsible for addressing broad-based issues,” he said.

“He’s making statements about a person who he doesn’t know, possibly being fed by the words and phrases that others are using. I think it’s a personal view and I think it needs to be seen as such.”

Cardinal Pell is seeking legal advice following Mr Saunders’ public attack earlier this week.

But Mr Saunders, who accused Cardinal Pell of an “almost sociopathic” lack of care towards victims, says he won’t be silenced.

Mr Saunders has also expressed concern that Cardinal Pell, in his role as the Vatican’s financial chief, is in charge of the resources of the panel.

“The commission will largely be dictated, to some extent, by the resources that are made available to it … and my understanding is that there is some financial pressure already in this particular area and I’m pretty appalled at that.”

Cardinal Pell has denied being part of any cover up of abuse, and says he’s always been willing to front the royal commission.

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Gilmore won’t rule out surf title defence

World surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore still believes she can defend her crown despite the knee injury that’s sidelined her for two months.

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Gilmore has been forced to miss this month’s Fiji Open after sitting out the Rio Pro because she injured her knee during a free surf at the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia in April.

The six-time world champion says she did all she could to make this week’s event at Cloudbreak but had to listen to her body.

It means Gilmore, who was fourth in the rankings and over 13,000 points behind championship leader Carissa Moore heading into Fiji, has just six events to overhaul the American and defend the title.

Sitting out Fiji also means her ninth-place finish at Margaret River will now have to be part of her championship haul with the absences in Rio and Fiji to be her two throwaway rounds for the year.

“It means I’ll have to count the round four at Margaret … it’ll be pretty difficult but anything’s possible and obviously with Carissa losing early in Brazil and Sally (Fitzgibbons) as well, it’s left the door open,” Gilmore told AAP.

“Courtney (Conlogue) is definitely going to be a strong one but, yeah, I’m not completely counting myself out.

“I’ll still compete the rest of the tour and we’ll have to wait and see.”

Gilmore said she still can’t fully move her injured leg but is hopeful of a return to surfing in two weeks or so.

With the next stop on the world tour being the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach starting on July 27, Gilmore is confident she’ll be back competing at that event.

“I’ve got a bit of time up my sleeve,” Gilmore said.

“I’m just doing everything that I can. Working with the physios, just doing the rehab that I need to make sure my muscles aren’t getting overused or other parts of my body aren’t trying to compensate, stuff like that.

“It’s about doing simple things. The doctors seem to think that it’s probably another two weeks and I should be good to go for a surf and get into it.

“It’s not like you forget how to surf … it’s just a matter of staying positive really.”

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Saker on the fence for ‘enthralling’ Ashes

David Saker won’t offer any insider information to Australia this winter, admitting his loyalties will be divided during the Ashes.

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Saker mentored England’s pace attack over the past five years, but recently left the ECB to return home and coach Victoria.

Saker worked closely with James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but is now managing Victoria’s Sheffield Shield defence and plotting James Pattinson’s Test return.

It makes the upcoming showpiece series somewhat awkward.

“I’ll try not to barrack for anybody. I’ll sit on the fence,” Saker said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“I’m a part of Australian cricket, of course, but I’ve got a lot of fond memories of being in the English team and I’ve got a lot of good friends in that (dressing) room.

“I’m going to be quite divided.”

Australia coach Darren Lehmann is yet to ask Saker for any tips on England’s attack.

“And to be fair, it wouldn’t sit that well with me. Just leaving after five great years with them, I don’t think I’d pass too much on,” Saker said.

Saker steered clear of making an Ashes prediction, but felt it would be decided by the ball.

In that regard, both sides are well placed for the “enthralling” series according to Saker.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad were largely ineffectual when Australia cruised to a 5-0 win in the 2013-14 Ashes.

Saker suggested it would be wrong for Australia’s batsmen to take too much confidence from the way they negotiated the new-ball pairing then.

“James Anderson is, in my opinion, as good a player as there is in the world,” he said.

“Stuart Broad, when the big games come along – and Australia is a big game – he seems to find something.

“In this (current) New Zealand Test series, I think they’ve done really well. I wouldn’t be writing those two off, that’s for sure.”

The same goes for England.

“Australia know that if they take their eye off the ball, England will jump all over them,” he said.

“At home, they’re a very hard team to beat. Over my years there, there was only one side that went there and beat them.”

Saker nominated Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris as Australia’s bowlers most likely to fire in English conditions.

“Ryan Harris is a big key for Australian cricket. His record is phenomenal, he puts the ball in an area that makes it really difficult,” he said.

Harris, Australia’s leading wicket-taker in their 2013 Ashes tour, is skipping the West Indies series but will link up with the squad in London.

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Pele happy to see Cosmos match play role in U.S.-Cuba detente

The Cosmos have scheduled the first match of an American professional sports team in Cuba since the two countries announced in December they would seek to end half a century of animosity.

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“It makes me happy that once again football is helping with peace, between United States and Cuba,” Pele told a news conference on Monday to promote the match at Havana’s 28,000-seat Pedro Marrero Stadium.

“We see unhappily that there are a lot of political problems everywhere. But football brings people together. For me it’s a big responsibility,” said Pele, 74, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

U.S.-Cuban relations have been hostile, particularly in the early 1960s when the United States organised an invasion of Cuba by a force of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs, and when Washington and Moscow nearly came to nuclear war over Soviet missiles stationed in Cuba.

Relations remained sour even after the fall of the Soviet Union until last December, when U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced separately and simultaneously they would seek to improve ties.

Since then, the United States and Cuba have held bilateral talks in both capitals and the two presidents have met face-to-face at a regional summit in Panama, moving them closer to restoring diplomatic relations.

“I hope this match will be one more step towards much better relations,” said Raul, 37, the former Real Madrid striker and Spain team captain who is the international star in today’s Cosmos.

The Cosmos became a sensation in the 1970s when they signed Pele and other international stars to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL). The league folded in the 1980s and was re-established in late 2009 as the second tier of U.S. club football, below Major League Soccer (MLS).

Now the league hopes to make inroads into Cuba, where football is gaining on baseball as the country’s most popular sport.

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson said the match was a starting point to explore cooperation with on player development, coaching and officiating.

“Everything can be on the table and we’ll take it one step a time and manage the relationship carefully,” Peterson said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Qld family reject teen killer’s apology

A “callous” killer’s courtroom apology has been rejected by his victim’s family, who say a life prison sentence isn’t punishment enough.

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Convicted murderer Warrick David Lindenberg, 29, expressed his “regret and deep sympathies” to the family of 19-year-old Shaune Gibson from a Brisbane Supreme Court dock shortly before he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday.

Standing in the same dock, accomplice Valerie Jeanette Chambers, 47, expressed no emotion when she was handed the same punishment for her role in Mr Gibson’s August 2012 murder.

Outside court Mr Gibson’s family labelled the apology a joke and said justice had finally been served for the 19-year-old, who was bound, beaten and strangled.

“They got what they deserved as far as I’m concerned,” Mr Gibson’s uncle Gordon Scott said.

“I still wish that they had the death sentence in Australia because they deserve it.”

The court heard Lindenberg, Chambers and a 16-year-old girl lured Mr Gibson to an Ipswich house where he was tied with fencing wire, assaulted with a pool cue and a machete, and strangled with wire.

His body was buried in a shallow grave by a deserted country road at Churchable, west of Brisbane.

The killers dug up Mr Gibson’s arm five days later to prove to the 16-year-old girl he was dead.

Lindenberg, who strangled the teen, said the attack was in retaliation for Mr Gibson’s threats to him and harassment of the 16-year-old.

However Justice David Boddice found little evidence of any behaviour to justify or explain Mr Gibson’s “horrible” death.

“It was despicable on the part of both of you, it was callous, and what you did thereafter was even more callous,” the judge said.

A teenage girl, now 19, is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Lindenberg and Chambers won’t be eligible for parole until 2027.

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Temporary houses for NT cyclone victims

Almost four months after Cyclone Lam destroyed homes in Galiwinku community on the NT’s Elcho Island, families have been moved into the first lot of temporary transportable houses.

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Cyclone Lam hit on February 20 as a category four storm, followed a month later by category three Cyclone Nathan.

There were no serious injuries or deaths, but over 300 people were displaced with around 200 people living in a tent city while waiting for more permanent accommodation.

More than 80 houses in Galiwinku were severely damaged and Chief Minister Adam Giles said in a statement it will take many months to rebuild them.

“These transportable houses ensure these residents will have suitable, comfortable accommodation until they can move back into their homes,” he said.

The accommodation is being progressively installed around the community.

Each one is made up of two transportable buildings joined by a covered breezeway, providing accommodation for around ten people.

Housing Minister Bess Price says they were designed in consultation with Elcho Island community leaders.

Mr Giles said last month’s NT budget included $90 million for recovery and rebuilding work but the total cost across four communities is expected to tip $100 million.

He said the government was working with community leaders in Galiwinku, Ramingining, Milingimbi and Gapuwiyak to create jobs, training and business development opportunities through the rebuilding process.

The first phase of the rebuilding program involves repairing half of the most damaged houses to get most seriously affected families back into permanent accommodation.

This will be followed by a longer-term three to four year training and jobs program so community members can make the most of the twin disasters.

The last of the transportable homes are expected to be installed by the end of June.

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South Korea reports first MERS deaths as officials scramble to contain outbreak

A 58-year-old woman, who had contact with South Korea’s first patient, died of acute respiratory failure on Monday, the Health Ministry said.

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A 71-year-old man who had been on respiratory support with a history of kidney ailments also died.

The ministry reported new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 25. South Korea now has the third highest number of cases after Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

South Korean authorities were considering a ban on overseas travel for the nearly 700 people isolated for possible infection.

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor, the world’s fifth-biggest automaker together with affiliate Kia Motors, has asked employees to avoid traveling to the Middle East over concerns about MERS, a company spokesman said.

“As this is a matter directly linked to the public’s lives and safety, we will bring together all our health-related capabilities now and work to dissolve anxiety and concerns quickly,” said Choi Kyung-hwan, the country’s finance minister and deputy prime minister.

Choi said the credibility of the government was at stake, after criticism grew against authorities for failing to contain the spread of the virus after the first patient’s symptoms were initially overlooked.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China’s deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There is no cure or vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week there had been no sustained human-to-human spread in South Korea, and that it was not recommending screening of passengers or the imposition of travel or trade restrictions.

WHO put the total number of cases globally at 1,154, with at least 431 related deaths.

China last week reported its first MERS case. A South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine last week, flying to Hong Kong and then traveling to mainland China.

Chinese health authorities have said it was likely the disease would spread as the infected South Korean patient had taken a bus from Hong Kong, crossed a busy border checkpoint and stayed in a hotel before being taken to a hospital.

Some tour agencies have started seeing overseas groups cancelling trips to South Korea, Yonhap news agency said, with a group of 300 Chinese scrapping a visit this week.

First identified in humans in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China’s deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). There is no cure or vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week there had been no sustained human-to-human spread in South Korea, and that it was not recommending screening of passengers or the imposition of travel or trade restrictions.

WHO put the total number of cases globally at 1,154, with at least 431 related deaths.

China last week reported its first MERS case. A South Korean man who tested positive after breaking a voluntary house quarantine last week, flying to Hong Kong and then traveling to mainland China.

Chinese health authorities have said it was likely the disease would spread as the infected South Korean patient had taken a bus from Hong Kong, crossed a busy border checkpoint and stayed in a hotel before being taken to a hospital.

Some tour agencies have started seeing overseas groups cancelling trips to South Korea, Yonhap news agency said, with a group of 300 Chinese scrapping a visit this week.

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