COVID19 Outbreak and Surge of the confirmed case early stage in Korea
Since the first confirmed case was reported on January 20, new cases continued to emerge mainly due to imported infections and their contacts for about a month. After the nation’s 31st patient was reported in Daegu on February 18, an exponential outbreak began to occur, starting with cluster infections related to the Shincheonji Church and Cheongdo Daenam Hospital. At that time, Korea was on the verge of facing a continued surge in the COVID-19 outbreak with new confirmed cases per day amounting to 909 and total cases under isolated treatment at 7,470.
However, the situation has been successfully contained as of May 2020 with new confirmed cases per day reduced drastically even to one digit. (Extracted from “Korea’s Response to COVID-19 and Future Direction” by Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters of the Republic of Korea, 7th May 2020)
There was no general lockdown of businesses in South Korea with supermarkets and other retailers remaining open. Kindergartens, schools, universities, cinemas, gyms were closed soon after the outbreak with schools and universities having online classes. Korea Baseball League and Football League have begun with controls measures (with no audiences) and provided opportunity to fans of the world to enjoy the games.
How could Korea control COVID19 successfully?
Korea has introduced one of the largest and best-organized epidemic control systems in the world. Various measures have been taken to rapidly mass test the population for the virus, and isolate any infected people as well as trace and quarantine those they had contact with, without further lockdown. The strategy of Korea in mitigating COVID-19 could be summarized as ‘Testing’, ‘Tracing’ and ‘Treatment’ (3Ts) as is the main strategy of most countries now.
The rapid development of test kits was made possible due to government R&D investment over the years and the emergency use authorization system. Mass testing is done for suspicious groups of people who possibly contacted confirmed patients. The suspicious groups are also determined through proactive tracing measures. Some measures of fast, effective and safe mass testing include Drive-through Test and Walk-through Test.
Please see the diagram below.
The Epidemiological Survey Support System (EISS) can quickly identify the movement of confirmed COVID-19 cases and analyze transmission routes, using the person’s location data and credit card transaction history. This system has been developed and is run by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT), and Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
(Extracted from “How we fought with COVID19-a perspective from science and ICT” by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Republic of Korea).
Korean government has also been sending daily emergency notifications detailing information on locations with reported infections, and other status updates related to the pandemic.
High-risk patients who have underlying illnesses are prioritized for hospitalization. Patients with moderate symptoms are sent to “repurposed corporate training facilities and spaces provided by public institutions,” where they receive observation and medical support. Patients who recover and test negative twice are released.
Treatments and a vaccine are essential to fundamentally addressing the outbreak. The government has actively pushed ahead with the development of treatments and vaccines, although the process takes a long time and the chances of success are low. The government first supported research on drug repositioning, through which new medical indications can be discovered, and also supported research on new treatment and vaccine development. (Extracted from “How we fought with COVID19-a perspective from science and ICT” by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Republic of Korea)
We shall continue to update further development, experiences and progress in Korea’s mitigating COVID 19 with people of Kenya and Somali through various channels.
Stay safe and strong!