Wednesday, April 8, 2020

COVID-19: Containment strategy by South Korea

Hello everyone!

In this post, we will discuss the manner with which South Korea managed to contain the virus rather successfully.

So let me help you catch up:-


  • In the year 2015, South Korea was hit by an unexpected outbreak of MERS-CoV i.e. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (coronavirus). During this epidemic, the country realized the importance of RAPID TESTING AND CASE DETECTION.   
  • Amplification of MERS in the hospital setting had been associated with diagnostic delays, which increased the window of opportunity for the generation of secondary cases.


  • January 20th, 2020:- First case of South Korea was detected 
  • Until February 18th, 2020:- 30 cases were detected and hospitalized for the same.
  • The 31st case being a super spreader led to a sudden rise in the number of cases to over 2300 in a period of 10 days.
  • The epicenter of the South Korean COVID-19 outbreak has been identified in Daegu.
  • Moreover, 3 other clusters were reported.

As of April 7th, 2020, there are a total of 10,331 cases with 6,694 recovered and 192 deaths making the crude case fatality to 1.8 percent.

Due to the past experience with the outbreak of a disease like MERS, the country seemed to be more equipped to fight a similar outbreak of coronavirus giving excessive importance to:-

  • National testing capacity 
  • Active case finding
  • Surveillance
  • Measures like social distancing and drastically reduce the mobility of the public at risk of developing COVID-19.

According to WHO the following are the effective steps that should be taken for Emergency Management.

Adequate infection prevention and control measure (IPC) were taken to control the disease
Public health response in South Korea:-
Country-level coordination planning and monitoring:-
a. The Korean government raised the COVID19 alert level to level 4 which is the highest to respond to the increasing number of cases.

Risk communication and community engagement:-
a. Implementation of comprehensive social distancing measures.
b. Restriction of public transportation
c. Cancellation of all social events
d. Delaying school activities.
e. Enhanced infection control measures in public places and hospitals.

Surveillance, epidemiological investigation, rapid response and case investigation:- 
a. National testing capacity = 15,000 tests per day with 43 drive-through testing stations
b. Smartphone apps developed to track the quarantined individuals and information on any individuals developing symptoms
c. A legislation was enacted which enabled the government to collect mobile phone or credit card data of positive cases to track their recent whereabouts, with which social media apps helped other individuals to determine if they have crossed paths with an infected patient.

Points of entry
National laboratories
Infection prevention and control:-  the public health authorities are focused on containing the outbreak in the city of Daegu which is the epicenter and rigorous active contact tracing is being carried out.

Case management:-
a. High-risk patients with comorbidities:- a priority for hospitalization,
b. Moderate symptoms: - repurposed corporate training facilities, spaces provided by public institutions with basic medical support and observation. 
c. Patients who recover and are tested negative twice are released
d. Close contacts with minimal symptoms and whose family are free from chronic illnesses:- self-quarantine for 2 weeks.
e. Local monitoring team calls twice daily to monitor those who are under self-quarantine with mild symptoms

Operations support and logistics, including contingency plans and funding mechanisms.

Written by Amatullah

Journal references:-
1. Shim, Eunha et al. Transmission potential and severity of COVID-19 in South Korea, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 93, 339 - 344

Websites used as references:-

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