The expectation that the battle
against the virus will be a long one was reinforced by news from Japan that its
prime minister has admitted for the first time that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
could be postponed.
Nearly 20,000 people are tested
every day for coronavirus in South Korea, more people per capita than anywhere
else in the world.
South Korea has created a network of
public and private laboratories and provides dozens of drive-through centers
where people with symptoms can check their health status.
The country developed its approach after an outbreak of Middle East
Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015, when 36 people died in South Korea, which
had the second-largest number of MERS cases after Saudi Arabia.
MERS forced South Korea to reassess its approach to infectious diseases and
its Centers for Disease Control set up a special department to prepare for the
worst, a move which appears to have paid off.
Laws on managing and publicly sharing information on patients with
infectious diseases changed significantly after MERS and could be seen in
action this year when the government used phone alerts to tell people if they
were in the vicinity of a patient.
This weekend, the South Korean government stepped up preventative action by
sending out emergency alerts urging people to stay away from places which
encourage mass gatherings such as churches, karaoke rooms, nightclubs and gyms.
The government also asked religious leaders to check the temperature of
followers and keep them at least 6ft apart during any services they deemed
A number of churches in South Korea are now facing legal action after
violating the guidelines.
South Korea has seen two waves of infections, Yonhap news agency reports,
the first beginning on January 20 with the first confirmed case, and the second
with mass infections among a religious group.
Now there are fears that imported cases could fuel a third wave.
The government plans to install around 20 phone booth-style test facilities
inside Incheon Airport to speed up the process of testing all arrivals from
The new entry procedures started on March 22. So far, 152 people have arrived in South Korea showing symptoms of the virus and they are awaiting their test results.
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