The Korean government is working with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters to deal with COVID-19, as the crisis phase of the infectious disease is getting serious. The Korean government has been involved in the first social distancing campaign from March 22nd to April 5th. It found that it is necessary to prevent the spread of Coronavirus as much as possible and to curb the spread of the disease to avoid overwhelming the medical system.
Social distancing includes refraining from attending events, meetings lots of people gathered together, outings, and telecommuting.
The government announced that the number and rate of COVID-19 cases from unknown origins have declined since the first social distancing campaign. But, the infection continues around the world, with new cases of COVID-19 confirmed and deaths rising at an alarming rate. Korea is still experiencing mass infections. The number of new infectees, which are added daily, has been around 100 or less for the last few weeks. So, the government considered the situation to still be severe and decided to extend the first campaign for two more weeks from April 5th to April 19th.
The Korean style quarantine has controlled the spread of the disease while guaranteeing the public rights to move, rather than coercive control like China, and this approach is gaining global attention. South Korea, which was the world’s second-largest country in the number of confirmed COVID-19, has emerged as the 'disaster leader', prompting a flood of inquiries from other countries that want to learn from Korea.
The Los Angeles (LA) Times examined reactions from other countries and interviewed a Harvard professor who said, "The detailed data in Korea has helped medical and professionals around the world identify key links to the virus". Also, Australian Interior Minister Peter Dutton replied to the question: Why did not Korea issue the prohibition of entrance from other countries although there are more confirmed cases in Korea than in Iran? He answered, "Because Korea has a good healthcare system and has always been transparent about confirmed cases". The German newspaper reported that the high number of infections in Korea is due to its excellent diagnostic ability and democratic system. Europe, including Germany, has already introduced Korean drive- through tests and quarantine systems.
According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), about 47 countries requested Korea to export medical equipment such as dental masks and diagnostic kits. The delivery of a transportation medium kit for collection and preservation to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) marked the first export case, followed by contracts with Romania and Colombia. It is also known that the Iranian president has sent a personal letter to Moon Jae-in, the president of Korea, to ask for support.
The Moroccan government wanted to import Korean diagnostic kits, and the Korean government demanded 105 Koreans to be brought to Korea. As a result, the interests of Morocco and South Korea have come into effect. So, on March 30, the foreign ministers of the two countries decided to send 105 Koreans home on April 3rd by a special flight to Korea and agreed to ship medical supplies to Morocco on that flight.
As the number of foreign cases steadily increases, Korean citizens who return to Korea from other countries are required to self-quarantine for 14 days in accordance with the government’s policy. In addition, self-diagnosis results must be submitted daily for two weeks through the self-diagnosis application according to the special entry procedure. Through one of the nation’s quarantine systems, the ‘Self-Association Safety and Security Application’, an infectee should provide notification of the health status twice a day. And then, in real-time, exclusive public servants take necessary measures for the citizens who are quarantined. If the self-isolated person leaves the quarantine area, an alarm will ring, and the police will trace that person.
From April 1st, all outboard travelers including short-term stayers must be in a self-isolation for two weeks upon return. For the use of the isolation facility, 100,000 won is charged per day. Also, if people do not follow the health authority’s direction, they can be sentenced to one-year imprisonment or be fined ten million won.
Korea has done a good job of battling the COVID-19, but it is very important that we all continue to practice safe social distancing and take the virus very seriously.