South Korea is often used as an example of how Covid 19 can be handled. However, the circumstances in each country are different in terms of how the infection started, where it started, policies and the willingness of the people to act as instructed. It is a cautionary tale from many aspects.
2015. It is important to realize that South Korean politicians and people have been sensitive to possibility of infection outbreaks since the MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) struck South Korea in 2015. The outbreak led to a quarantine of 17000 people. 36 died. South Korea had the largest outbreak outside the middle east. Nearly half of the infections could be traced back to one of two patients who were not isolated. The MERS epidemic alarmed the nation and dented the economy. There was a serious political fallout over what was perceived as poor handling of the infection. This history provided great motivation for the government to act swiftly at the first signs of infection.
In December of 2019, there were 30 cases of a mysterious respiratory illness.
January 20, 2020. South Korea began screening travelers from Wuhan in early January. First traveler patient tested positive for Covid 19.
January 27, 2020. 3 more airport travelers from Wuhan detected and isolated.
January 30, 2020. First patient (Patient 6) to be locally infected by someone who was infected.
January 31, 2020. Wife and son of Patient 5 tested positive.
February 2, 2020, First case of infection between strangers on an airplane.
February 14, 2020. Korea Center for Disease Control authorized the use of an unlicensed Covid-19 Test.
February 17, 2020. Patient 31, a member of the Shincheonji church tested positive. Patient 31 traveled extensively though Korea even after she was known to be infected. They estimate that she had contact with 1160 people before she was isolated.
February 20, 2020. 15 more people connected to Shincheonji tested positive. A month later, the cluster of cases around Shincheonji Churh accounted for more than half of South Korea’s total infections (5080 cases).
March 13, 2020. 46 cases associated with Grace Community Church outside of Seoul.
March 18, the Shincheonji Church accounted for 60% of all cases in South Korea.
Of course, there were clusters in other areas of South Korea but this is a startling example of how one person can have an enormous impact on the nations health.
As of April 1,2020, there have been 9975 cases reported and 169 deaths in South Korea from Covid 19.
South Korea has a population of 52 million.
What the South Korean government did will be in the next blog.