South Korea's responses to stop the COVID-19 pandemic

Am J Infect Control. 2020 Sep;48(9):1080-1086. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2020.06.003. Epub 2020 Jun 6.


Background: South Korea's aggressive responses to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have greatly slowed the epidemic without regional lockdowns.

Methods: The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's daily briefings were thoroughly reviewed. Information about hospital countermeasures and government coordination was collected via telephone interviews with 4 infection control team leaders, 1 emergency department nurse, and 1 infectious disease physician in Korea.

Results: After the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak, the government and hospitals prepared for the inevitable outbreak of emerging infectious diseases by reforming the epidemic preparedness system. As a result, COVID-19 diagnostic test kits were quickly developed, enabling extensive early detection of potential cases. Other key steps were tracking cases, finding exposed individuals, coordinating case assignments with health care facilities, and selective clinic screenings for visitors' entering hospitals with mandatory mask wearing. Consequently, after overcoming the initial peak of the outbreak, which was related to a religious group, Korea has been able to maintain daily new cases at around 100 and to less than 50 daily cases in the second week of April.

Conclusions: To counter the COVID-19 pandemic, which may persist, long-term, sustained response strategies must be prepared along with coordination between government and health systems.

Keywords: Countermeasures; Outbreak; Preparedness; Screening; Tracking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2