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המכללה האקדמית בית ברל > English > About Us > News > Newsletter > April 2020 Newsletter > Containing Coronavirus: What Can We Learn From South Korea?

Containing Coronavirus: What Can We Learn From South Korea?

Dr. Alon Levkowitz, head of the Social Science and Civics Department at Beit Berl College and an expert on the Korean Peninsula, explains how South Korea became one of the most successful countries in containing the pandemic and keeping the number

of infections and deaths to a minimum.

Dr. Levkowitz: "At an early stage, the South Korean government took several steps to deal with the threat of COVID-19: identifying the problem, acting in a transparent manner, taking advantage of the country's advanced health care system and utilizing sophisticated technologies.

Identification – The South Korean government rapidly identified a main source of the contagion―a group of pilgrims who had toured Israel and belong to an insular community of approximately 10,000 believers who are mostly concentrated in a specific region of South Korea. The central government instructed that all members of that community be tested for the coronavirus within a short amount of time. These tests enabled them to identify those who carry the virus and pinpoint the high-risk areas.

Tests – The Korean government started to increase the number of coronavirus tests carried out on a daily basis. From approximately 3,000 tests per day initially, the number grew to around 20,000 people tested every day. Since the beginning of the crisis until April 16, 2020, South Korea performed 538,775 tests. The Korean government even adopted the 'drive through' testing model, where samples are taken from people without even leaving their car. Around 40 laboratories were designated for testing tens of thousands of samples daily, enabling the government to track the virus's progress and helping to isolate people who were sick. Someone who has the virus and violates the isolation orders can expect to receive a fine of several thousand dollars.

Health care system – The South Korean health care system is efficient and advanced, despite the image some people may have, and it immediately prepared itself to contend with the virus threatening South Korea. Doctors and nurses were sent to assist in areas with larger concentrations of the disease.

Technology – Korea is a technology paradise and the government is applying technology to identify people who are infected. It does so using a combination of cell phone tracking, CCTV, credit card payments, telephones and more. Citizens receive notices to their cell phones informing them of the exact whereabouts of patient #853, for example, thereby enabling them to check if they were nearby.

Transparency and civil behavior – The government does not hide information from the citizens. Data about the virus's progression and the number of people tested and infected is reported to the public in order to earn its trust. The coronavirus crisis is causing severe damage to the South Korean economy, but Korean social solidarity is reflected during the current crisis, just as it was in previous economic crises.

Clearly, some of these lessons can be applied to other countries as well. In the meantime, stay home and be well!" 


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