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News and Announcements

korea's Fight against COVID-19

writer
장수민
created
2020-04-10
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1323

 

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The global community is facing an unprecedented crisis with the spread of COVID-19. We would like to share Korea's experiences and lessons learned in our fight against COVID-19, in hope that this information will help others in their fight against COVID-19 while minimizing disruptions in our daily lives.

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We will briefly cover the current COVID-19 situation in Korea and elaborate on our response to the crisis based on the core principles of openness, transparency, and democratic values, as well as our effective control strategy to test, trace, and treat.
Will we explain our TRUST campaign in depth, which stands for Transparency, Responsibility, United Action, Science, and Together in solidarity. The world is a diverse place with many different cultures and values, but we believe that “TRUST” can be a universal guiding principle that other countries can apply in their fight against COVID-19.
And finally, we will propose that the only way forward to combat this pandemic is based on a global alliance that requires close cooperation of every country. The virus knows no borders and doesn’t discriminate – the world must unite in order to successfully overcome this common threat to humanity. Since 6 April, the number of new confirmed cases per day has averaged around 50 per day and about 50% of these cases involved travelers from overseas.

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At the beginning of the outbreak, the exhaustive testing of at-risk people in the epicenter of Daegu, the 3rd largest city in Korea, resulted in a surge of hundreds of new cases every day. The Republic of Korea responded promptly to locate and place all contacts of confirmed cases into quarantine, and these swift actions effectively contained the virus from spreading to other regions without having to lock-down the entire city. This allowed people in other areas of Korea to continue their economic activities with judicious precautions, thereby greatly reducing the disruptive effects on the economy and their daily lives.
New confirmed cases per day have steadily declined since its peak of 909 on 29 February. Since mid-March, the daily number of patients who fully recovered, tested negative for COVID-19, and discharged from hospitals or treatment centers (shown in red) has surpassed the number of new confirmed cases (shown in blue). Since 6 April, the number of new confirmed cases per day has averaged around 50 per day and about 50% of these cases involved travelers from overseas.
However, we continue to be vigilant as we are aware that sporadic spikes and growing cases from inbound travelers can lead to further outbreaks.

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Each country is faced with its own political, social, and economic challenges, but Korea’s experiences could provide valuable insights and lay the foundation for effective control strategies that minimize disruptions to people’s daily lives.
Before explaining Korea’s response to COVID-19, we would like to put in to context that Korea is a vibrant democratic society and its economy relies on international trade and the flow of people, goods and services. Korea has a robust public health care system which was strengthened after experiencing SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015, as well as one of the most advanced Information and Communications Infrastructures in the world. Koreans also have a high level of civic awareness which guides their behaviors especially in times of crisis, actively practicing social distancing and voluntarily taking necessary precautionary measures.
Such factors allowed and, to an extent, obliged the Korean government to adopt a more preemptive, rigorous and innovative approach while respecting democratic values and maintaining openness and transparency. Korea’s COVID-19 control strategy can be summarized into 3 main actions: test, trace and treat.

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Robust diagnostic testing capability lies at the core of our control strategy. Our current diagnostic testing capacity is up to 20,000 tests per day, and as of April 7th, more than 450,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted. This was possible due to fast-track authorization of test-kits developed by biotech companies, rapid transfer of technology to relevant sectors, and close cooperation between public and private institutions to facilitate large scale testing.
Currently, COVID-19 tests are conducted at 118 testing institutions across the country, including the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), National Quarantine Stations, Research Institutes of Public Health and Environment, and other private medical laboratories and hospitals.
The Korean government ensured that testing was easily and readily accessible by the public while the safety of front-line medical workers were protected by introducing drive-thru and phone-booth testing stations.
Testing is free for suspected patients who are referred by doctors, or anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case, regardless of their nationalities.

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Korean Government is vigorously tracking those who have been in contact with confirmed cases, utilizing credit card transaction history, CCTV footage, and mobile phone GPS data when necessary, within the scope of our domestic law (Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act)*. Every effort is made to protect any personal information, and only relevant, anonymous information is disclosed to the public, to alert others that may have come in contact with confirmed patients.
Any contacts identified through epidemiological investigations are tested for COVID-19, put under self-quarantine and are assigned to case workers via “Self-quarantine Safety and Protection App”, which allows officials to monitor their symptoms twice a day and be alerted when they break self-quarantine by tracking their GPS.
*Information required by the public to prevent the spread of infectious diseases may be disclosed under the ‘Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.’ Disclosure is strictly limited to data relevant and necessary to the prevention of infectious diseases and anonymized to protect personal information according to the guidelines provided by KCDC.

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As COVID-19 infection can manifest with mild or no symptoms, we prioritize early detection through preemptive screening and rigorous contact tracing, followed by treatment at the earliest possible stage to increase the likelihood of recovery. As a result, COVID-19 case fatality rate in Korea is very low, at 1.85% (as of 7 April).
At the beginning of the outbreak, all confirmed patients were placed into hospitals to prevent community spread, but we promptly learned that even the most robust health care system would quickly run out of capacity. To make sure that critical care resources were available for those in serious conditions, a Patient Management System was established, where a network of medical professionals categorizes the patients into four groups based on condition and assigns them to appropriate care facilities. To manage the sudden influx of cases, the government designated 67 hospitals to exclusively treat COVID-19 patients.
Patients with mild symptoms are accommodated in temporary quarantine facilities called Living Treatment Centers, and checked by healthcare professionals at least twice a day. Patients in moderate, severe, and extremely severe groups are immediately placed in designated hospitals based on the category.

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The Korean government put measures in place to manage the potential risk of cross-border traffic, not with blanket entry ban, but with continuous adaptation and fine-tuning of measures designed to control and track inbound travelers. These measures include special entry procedures, self-diagnosis mobile app, mandatory testing, and self-quarantine for two weeks of all inbound travelers.
Special measures to prevent COVID-19 from leaving Korea was also implemented, such as the ban on the exit of anyone under self-quarantine, and COVID-19 Free Airport Program, which includes a 3-step temperature monitoring program on outbound passengers.

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All of the efforts and measures to combat COVID-19 that we have covered so far in this presentation were initially characterized into our TRUST campaign, which stood for:
-Transparency,
-Robust screening and quarantine,
-Unique but universally-applicable solutions,
-Strict control,
-and Treatment

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Following the first TRUST campaign that represents all specific measures taken when the spread was at its peak, we evolved TRUST into a guiding principle that can be applied universally based on all of the experiences and hard lessons that we learned.
TRANSPARENCY
From the early stage of COVID-19, the Korean government tried to keep the public fully informed. Since day one, press briefings have been held twice a day with simultaneous interpretation in sign language. These briefings are live-streamed on the internet (www.arirang.com) with simultaneous interpretation in English for international viewers as well. Relevant information is also provide via mobile apps and text alerts.
RESPONSIBILITY
Governments should take all available measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 while mitigating the social and economic risks at the same time. Aside from vigorous testing, tracing and treating efforts, the Korean government is implementing expansionary macroeconomic policies as well as financial stabilization measures worth 100 billion US dollars to relieve the burden on micro-business owners and the self-employed and to support businesses faced with liquidity shortage. In addition, regardless of one’s nationality, the Korean government provided free tests for all suspected patients who had contact with the confirmed or referred by doctors and free treatment for all confirmed patients to leave no one behind in our fight against COVID-19. It also contributed to effectively containing the spread through exhaustive testing of all suspected people.
Civil responsibility constitutes another critical pillar to the fight against COVID-19. The Korean government’s preemptive measures and transparent communication raised public trust and awareness, which resulted in an active participation in personal sanitation and social distancing. It also led to an outpouring of support from volunteers whose activities range from disinfecting public places to distributing food and care packages to those under self-quarantine.
UNITED ACTIONS
United actions by the government, research institutions and private companies have paved the way for prompt development, fast approval and mass production of test-kits. It also allowed Korea to promptly supply test-kits to other countries.
Korea has also maintained a whole-of-government approach. Since upgrading the health alert for COVID-19 to the highest level, Central Crisis Management Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising all relevant ministers, 17 provinces and major cities, has been established to allow prompt allocation and reallocation of resources for disease control. This has also enabled us to quickly adjust and fine-tune our measures with minimum disruption.
SCIENCE and SPEED
Korean government applied innovative technologies, such as drive-thru and open-air walk-thru testing stations, for a speedy response. Recently, Korea also initiated a prospective cohort study on domestic COVID-19 cases in close collaboration with the WHO, with the expectation that clinical, epidemiological and immunological studies may contribute to international efforts to fight the COVID-19 and provide scientific grounds for drawing up guidelines and recommendations.
TOGETHER in solidarity
In the spirit of solidarity, nations should work together to share best practices and coordinate on public health and financial measures, preserve financial stability, develop cures and vaccines while minimizing disruption in trade and global supply chains, especially of essential medical products such as PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and test-kits.
Korea is committed to sharing its information, best practices and lessons learned with the international community. Korea also stands against xenophobia and discrimination.

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The international community is facing an unprecedented global crisis with the spread of the COVID-19, which has stalled or ended the lives of those infected by the virus, restricted movement of people, closed borders, disrupted global supply and distribution networks, and spread panic and xenophobia.
As stated by the UN Secretary-General, we are only as strong as the weakest health system. To beat COVID-19 and recover from the devastation it has wrought, an unprecedented level of global cooperation and solidarity is needed. No country will be completely safe until the whole world recovers.

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Republic of Korea has successfully managed to contain the initial spread of the virus and we are actively assisting our international partners with best practices, lessons learned, data, supplies, and other resources.
The Korean government is also holding bilateral and multilateral telephone and video consultations with many countries, at various levels and sectors such as Disease Control and Prevention Agencies, to share information and formulate a coordinated response.
We are doing our utmost to meet the demand in other countries for medical equipment and supplies by ramping up domestic production capacity. Korea has already supplied test-kits to more than 40 countries and is providing other humanitarian assistance to countries with less developed healthcare systems.

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President Moon Jae-in took part in the Extraordinary Virtual G20 Summit on March 27th, chaired by Saudi Arabia, to advance a coordinated global response.
During the Summit, President Moon made the following proposals to strengthen the coordination of policy response to the COVID-19 crisis.
•Sharing clinical data, quarantine experiences as well as working together towards developing cures and vaccines,
•Supporting nations with less developed healthcare systems,
•Adopting expansionary macroeconomic policies, strengthening the global financial safety net and working together for the economic stability of the least developed nations,
•Finding ways to allow cross-border travel for essential purposes, especially by scientists, medical professionals and business leaders, to the extent that we do not undermine any one country’s disease control efforts.
The G20 leaders committed to work both individually and collectively to protect people’s lives, safeguard jobs & incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth, minimize disruption in trade and global supply chains, provide support to all countries in need of assistance, and coordinate on public health and financial measures. We believe such coordinated efforts will also result in global preparedness against future pandemics.

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As COVID-19 began to spread globally, we witnessed instances of fear, xenophobia and discrimination, including verbal and physical attacks targeting Asians all too often. As emphasized by Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in her BBC interview, it is the governments’ responsibility to stop the spread of xenophobia and discrimination, and work towards forging solidarity in the midst of this pandemic.

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