The strategy behind the country’s success has been the most expensive and well-organized testing program in the world. The country has also isolated infected people, traced, and quarantine their contacts.
According to the Worldmeter website, South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain.
Raina MacIntyre, an emerging infectious disease scholar at the University of New South Wales observed that South Korea’s strategy shows that diagnostic capacity at scale, and contact tracing are crucial to epidemic control.
Number of cases are declining largely because the herculean efforts of the country to investigate such a large number of people. New cases are still emerging and are linked to the community based circulation of Covid-19.
South Korea, probably, learned the importance of preparedness from MERS epidemic. Back in 2015, a South Korean businessman came back with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) after returning from a visit to a number of Middle Eastern countries.
Before he was diagnosed with MERS and isolated; he’s treated at three different health facilities in South Korea. By then, he had set off a chain of transmission.
The epidemic infected 186 and killed 36, including many other patients, visitors, and hospital staff. Tracing, testing, and quarantining thousands of people quashed the MERS outbreak after 2 months.
Legislation enacted since then gave the government authority to collect mobile phone, credit card, and other data from those who test positive to reconstruct their recent whereabouts, Science Magazine reported.
That information, stripped of personal identifiers, is shared on social media apps that allow other users to determine whether they may have crossed paths with an infected person.
After the novel coronavirus emerged in China, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) raced to develop its tests and cooperated with diagnostic manufacturers to develop commercial test kits.
Quarantine violators face up to $2500 fines. If a recent bill becomes law, the fine will go up, and as much as a year in jail.
South Korean government advised people to wear masks, wash their hands, avoid crowds and meetings, work remotely, and to join online religious services instead of going to churches. Those with fevers or respiratory illnesses are urged to stay home and watch their symptoms for 3 to 4 days.
South Korea has now doubled a planned economic rescue package to 100 trillion won ($80 billion) to save companies hit by the coronavirus. The package includes 29.1 trillion won in loans to small- and medium-sized companies.