Response to COVID-19 in South Korea

Despite a sharp growth of infections early in the pandemic, South Korea has since rapidly managed to control transmission of the virus. As of May 28th, South Korea counts 11,344 cases and 269 deaths, on a population of 51 million, comparing favorably with most Western countries.

The article provides a quantitative review of South Korea’s interventions in order to identify the contribution of the various components of the response. Early identification and management of cases, clusters, and contacts, along with extensive testing, have been key to South Korea’s approach. The study shows that a total of 68% of all cases could be traced back to clusters (48% to the Shincheonji religious group, 20% to other clusters, mainly workplaces, hospitals and churches) and only 11% to individual case-based contact. However, adopting this approach of cluster-based management might prove difficult in countries with already a widespread distribution of cases.

Amy Dighe, Lorenzo Cattarino, Gina Cuomo-Dannenburg et al., Response to COVID-19 in South Korea and implications for lifting stringent interventions, Imperial College London, 29-05-2020