The novel coronavirus is exponentially growing in many countries. Spain has become the fourth most coronavirus-infected nation, only behind China, Italy, and Iran. South Korea had held the fourth place until recently, but the Asian country has managed to radically reduce the number of infections and has become an example of how to face a health crisis of such magnitude.
Since the emergency began on February 20, the number of new cases has fallen to less than 100 per day. In only two weeks, South Korea has been able to greatly contain the effects of the pandemic thanks to digitization efforts.
To do so, a program with different measures to vigorously prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus has been applied. Massive testing, individual responsibility, and new technologies have played key roles. Their action plan can serve as a lesson to countries that are already battling the virus or preparing to face it in the coming weeks.
What are the measures applied by South Korea?
The Ministry for Home Affairs developed an app for smartphones, which has played a crucial role in containing the virus. The app, also known as “self-quarantine safety protection”, was created to prevent healthcare collapse and an uncontrolled spread of the virus. Once the data is registered in the app, medical staff then proceeds to evaluate the clinical condition and provide a remote diagnosis.
Implementing this app has significantly contributed to ease the congestion of dedicated phone lines to notify possible infections, which are still operating since downloading the app is not mandatory.
How does the system work?
Large-scale diagnosis is the clear advantage this technology offers. For this, users are asked for personal data such as address, age, gender, phone number, and email address. Once the questionnaire that the app offers is answered, the medical staff assesses the situation.
If the result is positive, the user shall travel by car to get tested in a drive-thru location (without leaving the vehicle). This way, health workers can quickly and safely perform the test, and the patient receives the results in 24 hours via app in order to self-quarantine or not.
Additionally, an information channel has been adapted to know how affected the place of residence of each individual is. This contributes to public awareness and prevention even more.
The app also allows the country’s Executive to monitor citizens while they are in this quarantine period through geolocation. Therefore, if a person affected by Covid-19 leaves their quarantine area, they receive an alert that is also sent to the agent that controls their area. Violation of this regulation results in sanctions and fines, and only in justified cases travel permits via mobile QR are given.
Also, those in quarantine can stay in contact with social workers and inform the development of their symptoms through the app.
Implementation in other countries
Thanks to this system, over 200,000 tests have been carried out in South Korea. This has allowed the infection rate to go from 813 to 114 in just 12 days. Using this system in other countries is a real possibility. In fact, Jung Chang Hyun, a South Korean official who oversaw the development of the app, has indicated the Government is prepared to share this technology.
As we commented in another article, the Madrid Region had been inspired by this model to develop coronamadrid.com, a website that in the next weeks will also become an app, with the purpose of avoiding the collapse of emergency phone lines.