South Korea: efficiency, discipline and solidarity against the coronavirus

A little less than a month ago, the country identified hundreds of new cases every day.Today, new contaminations are counted in a few dozen.

According to recent data from the Disease Control and Prevention Center (KCDC), 8,652 people contracted the virus in South Korea.The country has identified 101 dead since the start of the epidemic.

On Wednesday, it was reported that in just 24 hours, the propagation of COVVI-19 had killed 475 people in Italy, whose total balance sheet amounts to 3000 dead.

What explains this South Korean exception at the time of other countries, in particular Western, are billed by COVID-19 and struggle to influence the curve?

For Clément Charles, editor and presenter in the French section of KBS World Radio and founder of the information site (new window), transparency, efficiency, discipline and solidarity are spearheads of action in South Korea.

Interview with this French expatriate established in South Korea since 2007.

Clément Charles is a journalist in the French section of KBS World Radio

Photo: Clément Charles

South Korea seems to be doing relatively well in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus.What explains this trend that contrasts a lot with what we can see elsewhere, in the West?

South Korea has managed to curb the epidemic, even if it is not yet 100 % success, for several reasons.

First, contamination was centralized in a very specific area (Daegu and its province, the Northern Gyeongsang, which to date represents 87.03 % of infections) and via a quickly identified community (the church of Shincheonji, a sectwith more than 200,000 followers).

In Daegu itself, if the number of cases has increased sharply, most is linked to carriers of the coronavirus who were faithful of this sect or who had gone to a hospital where the brother of the founder of the church, LeeMan-Hee, had his funeral ceremony.A hospital which subsequently counted many infected and dead.

In South Korea, 60 % of cases have a link with Shincheonji.

Second, the population forms a group. En Asie, la priorité est donnée au nous, plutôt qu'au je.

Today is the same thing.And it is possible because the government of Moon Jae-in acts transparently.Every day, all figures are given in detail.

A geolocated alert system is sent to mobile phones when a case of contamination is identified near citizens.Applications make it possible to follow the journey of each contaminated person, the three or four days before having had a positive test.

In order to support the economy, of course, significant measures are taken by the government (nearly $ 13 billion Canadian dollars), but citizens support each other.For example, the owners of buildings cut the rents of the businesses they host in half.

Another thing: masks and hydroalcoholic gels are part of everyday life here.The country is polluted and it is not a week without that one does not go out at least once with a mask on the nose.Hand washing is also usual here.

Third, the efficiency.Very quickly, South Korea has implemented tests with effective results.They invented the Drive Thru of screening (then taken up in other countries as in Germany).They control between 15,000 and 20,000 people per day.

Corée du Sud : efficacité, discipline et solidarité contre le coronavirus

Just call a number (1339) to have an expert's opinion on our symptoms.If he tells us to go and do a test, he is reimbursed.If we go on his own, it costs only a little more than $ 147.

At the same time, containment measures (not total, as in France) were taken very early: the start of the school year, which took place on March 2 in South Korea, was pushed by three times and will take place on April 6.Strengthened health checks have been set up [since Thursday] as soon as the territory is entered according to the most contaminated countries, and this applies to all entrants (South Korean and foreign).

Faced with the shortage of masks, the government has decided to support production, prohibit exports and ration masks in pharmacy.Depending on the figure of your birth year, it is possible to buy two masks per week, which is a solution to avoid tails.For example, if my year of birth ends with 1 or 6, I can go on Monday, by 2 or 7, Tuesday, etc...

There is also the closure of all public places (museum, library, etc..), hydroalcoholic gel is available everywhere, in the street, aboard buses, in buildings ...

South Korea certainly has a land border on its peninsula, but it is not through its population, because it is with North Korea.The clear morning country is therefore a kind of island.And as is often the case for islanders, when the territory is shaking, everyone is in the same boat.

Is this feat exportable elsewhere, in Western countries that struggle to counter the spread of the coronavirus?

I think this is difficult to export.It is a social philosophy.In France, the Agnès Buzyn affair [the former Minister of Health who denounced the management of the coronavirus crisis by the French government] shows that we cannot have confidence, because there is notransparency.

I have returns from people in France who are not tested with 39.8 fever, cough and ventoline.Is this normal?In the United States, Donald Trump is at war with each state, because everyone does as he feels to fight the current health crisis.In England, Boris Johnson makes fun of the COVID-19 and proudly says that he shakes hands with contaminated.

For its part, South Korea is gradually trying to help other countries: some 17 nations have ordered COVVI-19 screening kits.The United Arab Emirates received 51,000.The French president also maintained for 25 minutes with the South Korean president Moon Jae-in to try to obtain solutions.

In Seoul, South Korean soldiers wearing protective combinations continue their disinfection operation, in progress for several days.

Photo: Reuters / Heo Ran

However, the South Korean government remains vigilant, despite the progress made ...

It must be said that it's not over.Everyone congratulates South Korea. Dernier en date, l'OMS : Les autorités sanitaires locales ont adopté une stratégie innovante de tests, augmenté aussi la capacité de ses laboratoires, recherché de manière exhaustive les personnes susceptibles d’avoir été en contact avec un malade et isolé les cas suspects dans des installations désignées.All this has changed the virus progression curve for weeks.

I think we have to be careful and, in my opinion, the government knows it very well.This is also why they pushed back the start of the two -week school year - unheard of in the country - while the curve of new cases is clear reduction.

And they also imposed a reinforced border control to avoid any new entrance to the coronavirus.They act properly, but mini-grapes are emerging every day.A new hospital in Daegu with nearly 100 contaminated, a church on the outskirts of Seoul...

The authorities fear that the capital will be reached.And there it would be a disaster, because half of the population of the country lives in the metropolitan region Seoul-Incheon-Gyeonggi.

Is there an unusual crowd to supermarkets to buy food and antibacterial products, as we saw here in Canada and Europe?In short, are there any signs of panic?

On foodstuffs, no rush to supermarkets.At the very beginning, when the number of daily cases identified began to accelerate by 100, then 200, to go up to 800, some went to fill up with Ramyeon, Korean instant noodles, and pre -cited rice, but withoutthat it is as incredible as in the West.

And then in South Korea, online trade, which is one of the world's leading markets, works particularly well.So provisions are easily made by this means.

Regarding protective products, there was a shortage of masks and hydroalcoholic gel at the very beginning of the epidemic.This is the reason why the government has taken control of production, limited exports and implemented a pharmacy rationing system, positions and certain cooperatives.

You must have seen in the media the images of tails in Daegu to obtain protective masks.Rationing does not avoid tails, because people still flock according to their year of birth, but these are shorter.

An application also allows you to know which pharmacy offers masks, what day, and the stock they have left.

Mops are used to spread disinfectant in front of the premises of the Shincheonji church of Jesus, an important hearth of Coronavirus.

Photo: Getty Images / AFP / Jung Yeon-I

We have little news of the situation in neighboring North Korea.Are you aware of what's going on in this border country of China?Are the South Koreans united with their neighbors?

North Korea has very quickly closed, even if it was already quite a bit before.And, since then, she says she has no cases of contamination.

She still placed in quarantine (not in fourtezen) many foreigners present in the country and has containing residents.

The regime has expressed the end of the isolation of foreigners in its media, a way of proving that the coronavirus had not entered the country.The Rodong Sinmun, the official body of the Labor Party, also reported that the inhabitants took good care of their confined compatriots, as if it were their own family.

Still according to this newspaper, Kim Jong-un would have sent meat and eggs to quarantine people.

For Americans, Pyongyang hides the truth.Robert Abrams, the commander of the American forces in South Korea, announced this week during a press teleconference that he was convinced that cases of infection existed in the north, even advancing the figure of 12.

According to humanitarian NGOs, North Korea needs $ 840,000 as part of its fight against the pandemic.Problem: health equipment is blocked on the border with China (Dandong), as North Korean security measures have become more strict.

For some experts, it would be a way of hiding the number of infected, because if the NGOs enter the country, they will be able to see what is going on there.

For the South Korean population, we are not talking too much about the situation in the north.Especially since Kim Jong-Un proceeded to several shots on the east coast in March.Therefore, the health situation in the neighbor is not the priority.

On the government side, COVID-19 could become an argument to get closer to the enemy brother by providing aid, financial and material.But for the moment, there is not really a return on the side of Pyongyang.

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