March 3, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told his nation the country has “entered a war against the infectious disease.”
March 24, Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha declared an emergency decree starting March 26. He asked the people to keep calm and cooperate, and warned the nation about the danger of fake news and social media. Thais still do not know what measures will be taken by the government.
The COVID-19 pandemic has the world in the grip of fear, however many media outlets are talking of the South Korean Model.
By imposing the right measures, at the right time, by the right people, and yes, it can be a model.
Leadership. Communication. Testing. Testing. Testing.
At the start of the global outbreak, South Korea was second behind only China in infected cases. Thailand put the country on the high-risk list. Thais panicked over illegal migrant workers returning to the kingdom in droves. As of March 24, South Korea has fallen to number 9 on the list of countries most affected by COVID-19.
What is South Korea doing right? Five things: 1) Effective leadership. 2) Transparent communication. 3) Testing. 4) Testing. 5) Testing.
The article by the American based Public Radio International quoted Kim Areum, Director of the International Health Care Center, Iha University.
“The way they’re dealing with the virus is really organized, transparent and efficient,” she said.
PRI interviewed a South Korean man, 37-year-old Choi, about his government’s communication strategy through texting. This is the quote from the interviewee.
“The reason why we are receiving so many messages about the rising number of infections is because the government is quickly carrying out tests for the virus,” he said. “I’m happy with the way the authorities are handling the outbreak.”
According to PRI, South Korea has a coronavirus hotline, holds daily televised press conferences and offers personal hygiene advice that plays on a loop on many buses and in subway stations in Seoul.
The American online media The Bulwark pointed out three key successes: surveillance, diagnosis and transparency.
The article said, “The country’s testing program is available to all individuals—inclusive of undocumented immigrants—and is free to those with symptoms or a clinician referral.”
Furthermore, the article stated, “In addition, the KCDC [Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has moved with clarity and transparency to deal with identified cases. Individual quarantine and/or isolation was quickly imposed, schools closed weeks ago, and knowledge on effective treatments was documented. Announcements on affected communities and regions—as well as suspected sources of infection—are included in press releases updated daily at midnight.”
According to Channel News Asia, “South Korea can carry out more than 15,000 diagnostic tests a day.”
“It has more than 500 designated testing clinics, including over 40 drive-through facilities that minimize contact between patients and medical workers.”
South Korea’s infection rates fall without city-wide lockdowns, said South China Morning Post. This is not to say that lockdowns aren’t an effective measure, but that South Korea has even more effective measures.
According to South China Morning Post, “South Korea has also come up with creative measures, including about 50 drive-through testing stations across the country, where it takes only 10 minutes to go through the whole procedure. Test results are available within hours.”
The article stated, early detection means early treatment. However, it also cautioned that comparatively South Korea has a younger population than European countries, hence treatment and recovery can be an advantage.
In none of the articles, did South Korea make social media a public enemy in times of COVID-19.