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  • Countries around the world have shut down to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

  • But in South Korea, people are starting to come back out on the streets.

  • Starting in late February, South Korea was reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.

  • With over 5,000 infected, they were registering some of the highest numbers of confirmed cases in the world.

  • But then something changed.

  • While cases in most other countries continued to rise, Korea's numbers started leveling off.

  • Look at how this curve starts to bend.

  • It indicates that Korea managed to contain the spread of the virus early on.

  • And they were able to do it because they'd learned a valuable lesson a few years ago,

  • when they fought a different coronavirus outbreak.

  • In South Korea, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

  • The death toll, on the rise.

  • Aggressively trying to contain the deadly outbreak.

  • The government was caught completely off guard.

  • Authorities are still trying to track down and isolate anyone who may have been exposed.

  • In 2015 a Korean businessman returning from the Middle East developed a fever, cough, and eventually pneumonia.

  • He went to several health facilities for a diagnosis,

  • before finally testing positive for MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by a coronavirus.

  • By that point his movements had created a chain of transmission that became hard for officials to trace.

  • They didn't know who was infected or where they had been.

  • Altogether, the virus infected 186 people

  • and killed 38 in South Korea.

  • The highest of anywhere outside the Middle East.

  • The government declared an end to the outbreak in 2015.

  • But they didn't stop planning.

  • The lessons all came into play when the next outbreak took hold in the country.

  • On December 31st, 2019, China reported the first case of the coronavirus.

  • In the following weeks, as the outbreak started spreading across the world, South Korea only had 30 confirmed cases of the virus.

  • But despite the low numbers, health authorities had already started working with biotech companies to develop a test for the novel coronavirus.

  • And soon, they had thousands of test kits ready to go.

  • They prepared for the worst, and the worst quickly followed.

  • By late February, the total number of coronavirus cases rose dramatically, crossing 3000.

  • This made South Korea's outbreak the largest outside of mainland China.

  • And it all started here in Daegu, where a woman went to the hospital with a fever.

  • Because the government had already equipped hospitals with coronavirus tests, doctors were able to test her.

  • She tested positive and became known as patient 31.

  • But the testing didn't stop there.

  • While she was sick, patient 31, had gone to a megachurch where she sat with a congregation

  • of hundreds for more than an hour.

  • So they traced her movements, identified people

  • she had come into contact with

  • and tested those people as well,

  • whether they showed symptoms or not.

  • Many of them also tested positive.

  • So they were quickly isolated and treated at home or at a center.

  • And then, all the people they had been in contact with were traced and tested too.

  • This is called contact tracing.

  • It's an approach that allowed Korea to test over 9,000 people who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive.

  • After Daegu, Korea ramped up testing around the country.

  • Private and national healthcare systems joined forces to set up a mostly free testing effort

  • that includes more than 600 locations that screen as many as 20,000 people per day.

  • Through this system, when anyone tests positive, the government is able to test and trace their contacts

  • to continue to break the transmission chains of the coronavirus on a large scale.

  • But that's just the human to human transmission, the infected person may have moved through the city,

  • touching subway poles and door handles.

  • And South Korea had prepared for this too.

  • After the MERS outbreak, when they weren't able to trace the movements of the virus,

  • Korea changed the law allowing the government to collect a patient's data and security

  • footage during an outbreak.

  • All their steps are logged and then shared

  • to alert people to stay away from the path of infection.

  • Websites and private apps compile the information allowing everyone to see if a person with

  • a confirmed case of coronavirus went to a pharmacy or the hospital, or anywhere else.

  • And they'll know how recently they went too.

  • It's a means of checking the possibility of infection.

  • Citizens are checking the coronavirus locations and are avoiding going to these areas.

  • This information lets people know if they've crossed paths with an infected person so they

  • can go get tested for the virus.

  • And contact tracing starts all over again.

  • Tracing people's every move can be controversial but many in South Korea prioritize public health over privacy in an outbreak.

  • As a result, South Korea was able to test hundreds of thousands of people,

  • more than any other country at the time.

  • And this made it easier for authorities to see the virus.

  • To see where it's located and where it may be lurking.

  • This ability to find and treat infected people has allowed Korea to avoid aggressive lockdowns.

  • And it's helped bend the curve of the outbreak that started out dangerously steep.

  • For now, Korea has turned a corner, but they continue to be prepared.

  • It's that kind of vigilance that has set Korea apart in the coronavirus pandemic.

  • But it wasn't the only place to test people aggressively.

  • Singapore, Taiwan, and other neighbors saw the benefits of widespread testing too.

  • Now countries like Germany and the UK are starting to implement aggressive testing.

  • And even the US, where the government has failed to provide adequate testing, is now

  • scrambling to test more people.

  • We know that we have to do more

  • and we continue to accelerate in testing.

  • Korea's strategy of contact tracing might not be easy to replicate in countries with much larger populations.

  • But the country's success with widespread testing,

  • still offers a way out for most countries

  • that are stuck in lockdowns.

Countries around the world have shut down to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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B1 中級 美國腔 武漢肺炎 新型冠狀病毒 新冠肺炎 COVID-19

韓國冠狀病毒應對的大教訓 (The big lesson from South Korea's coronavirus response)

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    Winnie Liao 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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