How the US Can Benefit From South Korea’s No Lockdown Solution

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US experts suggest that Americans should learn from South Korea when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.

South Korea did not implement lockdowns and has maintained its normal routines despite the pandemic. Experts added that even though South Korea’s response to COVID-19 is not perfect, it is proven effective.

Park Young Joon, the director for epidemiological investigations at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), was troubled that they will not win the battle against COVID-19.

In the first quarter of 2020, Park was deployed to Daegu, home of 2.5 million Koreans to investigate the recorded COVID-19 cases of the members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus. This religious group has services that include physical contacts. On February 17, the first member of the church who tested positive was the 31st COVID-19 patient in South Korea.

South Korean health experts realized that there is an outbreak ongoing when they recorded a big number of new cases in the succeeding days. To control the spread of the virus, Park ordered quarantine measures of everyone who entered the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.

The contact tracing was mandatory, and all contacts were screened. Despite being considered an expensive strategy, around March the outbreak in Daegu was declared under control. The outbreak measures in Daegu are now considered as a well-thought-of and effective response to COVID-19.

During the onset of the pandemic, President Moon Jae refused the idea of lockdown since this would greatly affect South Korea’s economy. This is the ultimate reason why South Korea enforced intensified social distancing measures and implemented a well-design contact tracing measure.

South Korea may not eliminate COVID-19 cases, but they have maintained a manageable figure of new cases a day. South Korea is now a model country across all nations when it comes to handling COVID-19 even before a vaccine was created.

South Korea’s response to COVID 19 can be related to their experiences in the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) five years ago. It is considered a fatal disease that is also related to SARS and coronavirus.

The spread of MERS in South Korea happened to dozens of people who were exposed to a returning traveler from the Middle East. During that time there were testing delays and MERS patients’ information was not disclosed. This caused panic among South Koreans. MERS infections led to the death of 38 patients.

South Koreans learned from their mistakes in the past that made them create a diagnostic test which will reveal the results after 1 week. Moreover, South Korea’s public health law allows contact tracers to collect data if necessary, to control the expansion of infection. The personal data will then be destroyed as soon as the testing is done. 

What South Koreans realized in their battle with COVID is that the isolation of information can affect the effective contract tracing. When the outbreak started in Daegu, the first Shincheonji member who was diagnosed is a sixty-one-year-old woman.

She had flu-like symptoms and was admitted to the hospital. However, in Korea patients can leave and return to the hospital while they receive treatments. The woman attended the church service and contacted one thousand people in the church.

South Korean medical experts were struggling to trace them since the church is secretive. They cannot confirm the church members’ identities until the government reprimanded the founder Lee Man- Hee with a criminal investigation if he will not disclose the 200,000 names of their members.

With the continuous surge during that time, Ahn Yeo Hyun, an anesthesiologist in Busan came up with a solution that will not cause fear among the medical workers.  They have created modified phone booths where medical workers can stand inside and use gloves which are installed in the glass walls while the patient is standing on the opposite side for a swab test.

In this way, both medical workers and patients are protected. These booths were set-up in entire South Korea. To even expedite the testing, they have also made drive-thru testing sites. With this innovation, South Korea was able to perform a million tests.

US experts are very hopeful that Americans will learn from South Korea when it comes to their ways on how to handle the pandemic. They recommended having more effective testing and strict measures on the implementation of wearing masks.

In addition to this, experts highlighted the importance of investing in contact tracing procedures. They believe that these will reduce COVID-19 deaths significantly.

South Koreans’ strategy can be studied to limit death in the US. As opposed to what many Democrats believe, South Korea is an example that lockdowns are not the solution to overcome the pandemic.

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