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Street tests and SMS-mailing: how South Korea has taken control of the epidemic of the coronavirus
Material posted: Publication date: 27-03-2020
South Korea is one of the first faced with an epidemic COVID-19, but is it now slower than in most other countries. As the country managed to achieve this, says the researcher of the Institute of Oriental studies Natalia Kim.

The first case of HIV in Korea was 21 January, then the number of cases increased and peaked by 29 February, when the number of new cases exceeded 900, and the total number of infected people has exceeded 3000.

South Korea is not the first time you have to deal with the epidemic of coronavirus in may — June 2015, the country has taken emergency measures due to a virus MERS–CoV, or middle East respiratory syndrome. The first infected with MERS was 68-year-old Korean businessman, who returned from Bahrain. In 44% of cases the disease MERS coronavirus was caused by failure of the isolation of infected patients. As a consequence, the main focus of the epidemic was in the hospital. The total number of infected MERS in the two months that lasted the epidemic amounted to 186 people, of fatalities is 38; for the quarantine turned out to be 16 993 people, including mostly students of schools and higher educational institutions. The epidemic of MERS has shown the weaknesses of the South Korean health care system: lack of rapid and accurate testing in the early stage of infection with coronavirus, failure of the isolation of infected patients, the result of a virus contracted physicians (8 persons) and nurses (15), the weak training of the medical staff, as well as poor commitment of the government to such emergency.

In 2020, South Korea had to overcome new and more difficult test: the epidemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. It is difficult now to say to what extent the South Korean government has taken into account the lessons of 2015, but it can be argued that this time it has taken more effective measures. By 25 March, the total number of patients with coronavirus in Korea amounted 9037, died, 128 people, recovered 3730. Thanks to the undertaken government measures, South Korea has managed to significantly reduce the number of infections, and most importantly — deaths. Unlike Italy, Iran, where the mortality rate is high in South Korea, the mortality rate is quite low. The distribution by age groups shows that people over 60 years of age, although are at greater risk, but not overrepresented among the cases of coronavirus. Currently 27% of the patients are young people aged 20-30, 24% 30-50 years old, 19 % — 50-60 years, about 20% — 60-80 years, and 4.4 % — in the age of 80 years. Among the cases dominated by women — 61,3%. The greatest number of infections occur in the Daegu — 6456 people, and the province of North Gyeongsang province (in the Southeast of South Korea), where the city is located, registered from 7718 9137 patients with coronavirus. Other foci of the epidemic in Seoul (347), Busan (112), the Sejong (44), Incheon (42), Ulsan (37), and Daejeon (24). The least number of infected with the coronavirus in the provinces of South jeolla, North jeolla and Jeju island (South, South-West of South Korea).

The South Korean government stated that the main principles of the fight against the epidemic of coronavirus COVID-19 are transparency and early testing. Policy transparency implies openness and accessibility of information on the incidence of infection. All relevant information about cases (with a confirmed diagnosis), as well as those who only have been tested for coronavirus, recovered or died, is going to a special center at the Ministry of health of the Republic of Korea and accessible to the public. Ill is given a number under which he appears in open sources of information. On the basis of Bank cards infected, other sources of information about his accommodation, work, movement is made "map" of potential patients with coronavirus. Information about the patient N is sent in the form of SMS messages to all who were able to contact lately. Currently, all infected divided into arbitrary "clusters" in the center of an epidemic. All of these "clusters" 10, plus those whose hearth is not precisely defined. The largest number of infected people is a "cluster" of members of the sect of Sinchonri whose center is in Daegu. Patient No. 31, which, being infected with coronavirus, moved freely around Korea and triggered a rise in cases was a follower of the sect of Sinchonri. To the "cluster" of Sinchonri include 5540 people, or 61.3% of the total number of infected. Other relatively large "clusters" are employees at the call center and KURO have been in contact with them — about 11% of patients in several nursing homes, hospital the heating elements, a sports center city Cheonan. Despite the fact that the South Korean authorities make maximum efforts to establish the center of an epidemic, determining the carriers of the virus in 25% of cases, it remains unclear the source of infection.

Qualitative and quick test to identify the virus at an early stage of infection is of great importance for the treatment of coronavirus, and most importantly — to prevent deaths. In a short time the South Korean companies have been able to develop testing systems that enable the detection of coronavirus in the early stage of the disease. In particular, tests the South Korean company Seegene allow for time to test 100 patients. The company's production volume is 10,000 tests per week — allow for seven days to test one million people. But it is theoretically and when absolutely necessary. In reality, in South Korea tested for the presence of coronavirus in the absence of symptoms voluntary. To simplify the South Korean authorities opened the so-called mobile clinics, which allow citizens to be tested without leaving the car. The analysis hand over those who have symptoms, or those who had contact to the infected. On an average day the test is administered 10,000 to 15,000 people. On 25 March, the total number of surveyed amounted to 357 896 people, of which most members of the sect of Sinchonri. In the case of a confirmed diagnosis, the doctor determines to hospitalize a patient or not. Those who have the disease occurs in mild form, are quarantined at home or excluded of the hospital complex. In order to isolate the growing number of infected, Samsung, LG provided their buildings (hotels, training centers), where patients had the opportunity to reside temporarily. Thus, South Korea has partially managed to alleviate the pressure on the hospitals, which would simply not have coped with the influx of patients in the epidemic.

An important element in the fight against coronavirus in South Korea is a relatively high level of civic responsibility and teamwork. The Koreans are very Executive in respect of the measures recommended by the Ministry of health during the epidemic: all wear masks, observe the rules of hygiene, in General, more responsible attitude towards their health, which ultimately assists in the overall improvement of the population. In turn, the South Korean government has consistently adhered to the principle of transparency in terms of informing citizens about the epidemic, thereby increasing trust and understanding between government and society.

Natalia Kim


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