How is Korea ‘suppressing’ Covid-19?

How is Korea 'suppressing' Covid-19? 2
How is Korea 'suppressing' Covid-19? 2

Europe is the global Covid-19 center with the number of new infections continuously increasing sharply in countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, and France.

In that context, Korea is considered a sign of hope and also a model for many countries to learn from.

Medical staff at a mobile testing station north of Seoul.

South Korea can do this without having to apply tough measures such as blocking an entire city.

South Korea’s success stems from its widespread and closely organized testing program, combined with efforts to isolate nCoV infections and find people who have come into contact with patients.

`Wide diagnostic capacity is key to disease control. Detecting travel and contacts also has a big impact,` said Raina MacIntyre, an academic at Sydney’s University of New South Wales.

South Korea has so far tested more than 270,000 people, reaching a rate of 5,200 tests per million people, more than every country except Bahrain.

However, this success may not last long.

`That prevented us from thoroughly investigating other areas,` said Oh Myoung-don, an epidemic expert at Korea National University.

New outbreak clusters began to appear.

South Korea understands the importance of disease prevention after the bitter lesson of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The process of screening, contact tracing and quarantining nearly 17,000 people helped end the epidemic after two months, but the outbreak had a negative impact on the Korean economy and made the whole country worried.

`That event showed that laboratory testing is an important factor in controlling emerging infectious diseases. Experience from the MERS epidemic helps us improve infectious disease control and prevention systems at facilities.`

Laws passed later allowed the government to collect mobile phone data, credit cards and many personal information of people positive for the virus to track their movements.

Not long after Covid-19 appeared in China, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) raced to develop test kits and coordinated with manufacturers to manufacture commercial products.

`Patient 31` tested positive on February 18.

The sudden increase in speed overloaded testing capacity, while KCDC’s 130 detectives could not keep up with the spread of `patient 31`.

How is Korea 'suppressing' Covid-19?

A patient was taken to a hospital in Daegu on March 12.

Patients at high risk and with underlying medical conditions are prioritized for hospitalization, while those with mild symptoms are transferred to temporary staging areas.

Close contacts and patients with few symptoms are required to self-isolate for 2 weeks and continuously monitor their body temperature.

Despite efforts, Daegu city and North Gyeongsang province still run out of space to treat seriously ill people.

The number of new infections is gradually decreasing thanks to efforts to maintain `social distance` throughout Korea.

`People were shocked by the Tan Thien Dia epidemic cluster. It has now been controlled,` said Chun Byung-Chul, an epidemic expert at Korea University.

The Korean government hopes to soon control new epidemic clusters, similar to how they dealt with the Tan Thien Dia epidemic cluster.

The Korean Ministry of Interior last week also announced an application to track quarantined people and collect symptom data on suspected cases.

Some experts believe that the above model may be successful in Korea, but it is difficult to bring the same effect in the US.

`As long as this remains uncertain, it is difficult to say that South Korea has passed the peak of the epidemic,` Chun added.

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