Korea is facing yet another virus spread after 2015, when the country dealt with MERS. At that time, it was Samsung Medical Center at the middle of controversy. Some pointed out that the hospital, along other medical institutions, didn’t place enough safety controls to avoid more cases. It took more than a month for the waters to calm down and the spread to be controlled.
The coronavirus spread in Korea
Fast forward 5 years, Korea and the Korean healthcare system is answering to the coronavirus spread: this time fingers inside the country point to a religious group called Shincheonji. After several of their members visited Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus (COVID-19), they held services at a place in Deagu, where thousands of them gathered, including those who were in Wuhan weeks before. Deagu is the fourth largest city in Korea and seats about two hours from the capital Seoul. It is now the focal point for the Korean government and Korean medical services to fight against the coronavirus spread, but clearly not the only front.
The answer from the local government and the Korean healthcare system has been nothing but remarkable over the last 14 days. Since the government raised the alert level to red, the highest degree, schools postponed the beginning of classes, companies started to ask employees to work from home, public demonstrations stopped, concerts and entertainment events were cancelled or moved, public transportation was equipped with sanitizer gel (even elevators at large apartment complexes and public buildings) and citizens were asked to avoid crowded places. The unity and discipline of this nation truly came to light.
Being said that, all those preventive measures are a simple feature compare to what the national healthcare system set in place: from diagnostic drive-thru centers (yes, you don’t have to go out of your car to be tested) to a transparent information system propelled by official organizations like the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and non-official efforts like live feed online maps and even mobile phone apps. Test’s results take less than a day to come out. The reason why Korea is showing an increasing number of cases is also related to the amount of testing the medical institutions are conducting 24 hours. The idea is to detect possible cases at an early stage before they can extend.
Outcome and numbers of coronavirus in Korea
At the same time, Korean medical institutions are working non-stop with all their resources to treat those 7,755 registered cases across the country (at the time of writing, March 11th). Plenty of medical volunteers have moved to Deagu to help at hospitals. So far 60 people have passed away, an unfortunate situation, but yet a small percentage of the coronavirus cases compare to what other countries have reported recently.
Overall, Korean authorities deserve all our respect for their control implementations, Korean medical teams and the healthcare system are earning another degree of trust and visibility, and Korean citizens and foreigners living in this country are showing once more a resilience proven over and over along the last decades.