‘MERS helped humongously,’ agrees Hyunmi Park, a UK-trained colorectal consultant surgeon, now a visiting professor in robotic surgery at Korea University Hospital. ‘It’s helped in the track and trace but also in the regulations that were introduced for small and medium pharmaceutical companies to produce test kits very quickly,’ Prof Park adds. ‘As soon as we had a sample of the virus they were able overnight to start making test kits. We produce and even export as many as we need.’
This measure meant 120,000 tests could be carried out daily almost straight away, says Prof Park, as the UK struggled to hit its initial target of 10,000.
On the front line, patients with any symptoms are tested in pre-assessment areas, away from hospital front doors. Any booked for elective surgery – and their families – are tested too. Results return in hours.
We had maximum protection. But I’ve been feeling very guilty when messaging my friends in the UK
‘We didn’t cancel anything,’ says Prof Park. ‘We never had a lockdown. No business or hospitals got shut. The Korean people are also very obedient and very responsible towards their fellow humans,’ she adds. ‘It was described as a “big snowy day”, an extended one, obviously. On such days, Korean people just stay at home.’ While restaurants remained open, few had much business, she adds.
Social-distancing advice was issued by its Government to reduce meetings, travel and contacts and to encourage hygiene measures such as regular handwashing and the etiquette of coughing into sleeves with masks on." https://www.bma.org.uk/news-and-opinion/prepared-for-the-worst-how-south-korea-fought-off-covid-19