K “Bang Yok”, or the Korean response to Covid. A term hammered out by the authorities to recall its effectiveness against the virus. Struck in January, South Korea has kept the epidemic under control and the number of deaths below 600, without confining its population. And this thanks to the triptych “test, trace, process”.
A valuable experience
A method to which Anh Wartel, in charge of clinical trials at the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, believes that a T should be added for the transparency of the authorities. “South Korea has succeeded in mobilizing the population through daily communication on its health policies. “
The other coronavirus epidemics that the country has faced (MERS and SARS), have also helped forge the Korean model. “Since the 2015 law on infectious diseases, an epidemic response system is already ready. For example on the production of tests or access to citizens’ personal data for the identification of contact cases ”, explains Doctor Anh Wartel.
Surveillance cameras, credit card data, mobile phone GPS… health security comes before privacy. Despite the liberticidal aspect of these measures, the effectiveness of tracing contact cases in South Korea seemed difficult to dispute.
But since December everything has changed. From now on, “The capital region is a war zone against Covid-19”. No more nightclubs, gyms, take-out in cafes and, for restaurants, a curfew from 9 p.m. The number of daily infections exceeded 1,000 this Sunday, December 13, and if this trend persists for a week, it could be synonymous with virtual containment.
This third wave is different from those of February and August. “Before, the outbreaks affected many people but were limited, explains Jaewook Choi professor of preventive medicine at Korea University. Today, we face many outbreaks, involving few people. “
A situation that adds work to already exhausted and less effective contact case tracers. The unidentified cases are constantly increasing, which favors the spread of the virus. According to Professor Choi, massive screening of the population would be the most effective measure to stem the rise in the current curve.
As a result, the government is increasing its testing capacities, mainly in greater Seoul where 150 new centers will be opened as of Monday, December 14. This area, where half of the national population resides, concentrates the majority of new cases.
In addition, the teams of epidemiological investigators will be reinforced by 800 soldiers and police to break the chains of contamination in the capital. Measures which must take effect quickly because the capacities of resuscitation beds are almost saturated in the capital. Containers are even transformed into hospitals for Covid-19 patients. A symbol that demonstrates the importance of the coming weeks for the Korean government.