South Korea’s emergency exercise in December facilitated coronavirus testing, containment


SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean tabletop train on emergency responses to a fictional mysterious outbreak led on to instruments the nation deployed lower than a month later to handle the arrival and unfold of the coronavirus, one of many consultants concerned mentioned.

FILE PHOTO: South Korean troopers in protecting gear make their approach whereas they disinfect buildings downtown, following the rise in confirmed instances of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) in Daegu, South Korea, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photograph

In line with an undisclosed authorities doc seen by Reuters, on Dec. 17 two dozen main South Korean infectious ailments specialists tackled a worrying situation: a South Korean household contracts pneumonia after a visit to China, the place instances of an unidentified illness had arisen.

The hypothetical illness shortly spreads among the many colleagues of the members of the family and medical employees who handled them. In response, the staff of consultants on the Korea Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (KCDC) developed an algorithm to seek out the pathogen and its origin, in addition to testing strategies.

These measures have been mobilized in actual life when a primary suspected coronavirus affected person appeared in South Korea on Jan. 20, the doc mentioned.

“Wanting again over the previous 20 years, people have been most plagued by both influenza or coronaviruses, and we’re comparatively doing nicely on influenza however had been apprehensive about the potential for the outbreak of a novel coronavirus,” mentioned Lee Sang-won, one of many KCDC consultants who led the drill.

“It was blind luck – we have been speechless to see the situation change into actuality,” Lee added. “However the train helped us save a lot time growing testing methodology and figuring out instances.”

The train performed a key function in slowing what turned Asia’s largest coronavirus epidemic outdoors China utilizing aggressive and sustained testing.

After an enormous early outbreak, South Korea rolled out widespread testing inside days, launching an intensive program to check individuals who don’t have signs however could possibly infect others, isolate confirmed sufferers and hint their contacts.

The nation gained reward for holding the unfold of the illness with comparatively little disruption. It has 9,583 instances and 158 deaths, and managed to convey the every day tally of recent infections to about 100 or fewer for the previous three weeks.

The KCDC staff, which Lee mentioned was fashioned in 2018 as a form of examine group, had needed to spice up large-scale DNA evaluation capabilities after the group earned a lot public criticism for its dealing with of a 2015 outbreak of Center East Respiratory Syndrome.

Quickly after the drill, the coronavirus epidemic emerged within the Chinese language metropolis of Wuhan, prompting the consultants to start contemplating that it may be a novel coronavirus. Even earlier than Beijing formally declared it, the South Korean staff was prepared to start testing, Lee mentioned.

The doc additionally confirmed the KCDC established testing methodology on Jan. 4, three days earlier than Chinese language authorities recognized the virus, and began testing suspected instances on Jan. 9. By early March, South Korea was able to working as many as 20,000 assessments a day, with 5 corporations churning out kits for home use and export.

“We may be a bit overreacting at the moment with only a few home infections, however there have been substantial potentialities it will attain pandemic ranges certainly,” Lee mentioned. “Have we carried out nicely? I don’t know. However we didn’t need to repeat what we went by means of in 2015 – our motto was ‘by no means once more.’”

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Enhancing by Gerry Doyle



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