torsdag 23. april 2020

Test, trace, contain: how South Korea flattened its coronavirus curve

Late last week millions of South Koreans queued patiently at polling stations to cast their votes for a new national assembly. If any uttered words of frustration from behind their masks, they were out of earshot of their fellow voters, kept at a distance by duct tape marking appropriate intervals.

As they waited to wash their hands and pull on disposable plastic gloves before entering the booths, some may have allowed themselves to contemplate life beyond exercising their democratic right: an imminent return to work, a round of golf or, at last, a chance to shop for something more indulgent than food and hand sanitiser. Going out for dinner, let alone voting in a national election, would have seemed almost inconceivable weeks earlier when the coronavirus threatened to exact the same relentless toll on South Koreans as it has in the US and parts of Europe.

Long before politicians in Britain accepted that the illness posed a serious threat to public health, South Korea watched the rise in reported daily infections with growing alarm. After the country reported its first case on 20 January, numbers initially remained low before climbing sharply, reaching a peak of 909 daily infections on 29 February.