South Korea went beyond technology to keep COVID under check

The Asian country used technology but also worked on social interventions such as contact tracing, quarantine and case isolation

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Local officials will be assigned to affected individuals and their families to establish a regular line of communication until the end of the 14-day self-isolation period. | Representative picture

As the world ponders what it has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming increasingly apparent that social, not just technological, interventions will help bridge the waves of the future, a recent House of Commons report on the United’s response reveals Kingdom to the pandemic.

The report sees South Korea’s response and success in tackling the pandemic early on as ideal and worth emulating, but criticizes the UK government for mistakenly believing that the same model will not work in their country.

South Korea, the report says, tells us that technology-based solutions can offer protection from disease, but will not work unless social measures are also in place.

While South Korea used technology, it also bypassed proven social interventions such as contact tracing, quarantine, and case isolation.


The world needs to realize that the right use of technology and such social interventions will go a long way in combating pandemics in the future.

The UK government has been fairly confident that their test-trace-isolate system is unique and the most effective. However, it did not bring the desired results, according to the House of Commons report. While most of the world resorted to lockdowns, South Korea stood out for its extraordinary method that did not advocate a full lockdown. Of course, the country resorted to restrictions on businesses, but not to total lockdown and sealing of the borders. Meanwhile, the Asian country managed to keep its COVID-positive case numbers in check.

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One area in which South Korea acted very quickly was introducing a quarantine for travelers from other countries. This measure, which was beaten with Test-Trace-Isolate, worked wonders for South Korea.

Of course, the country used technology like cell phones to track down suspected cases, but once a positive patient is found, the following steps are mostly human-driven.

Local officials will be assigned to affected individuals and their families to establish a regular line of communication until the end of the 14-day self-isolation period. Officials provide home-stay kits to meet patients’ daily needs … while respecting the person’s privacy.

The home-stay kits include groceries, thermometers, face masks, disinfectants, and can be customized if the patient has special needs, such as medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, and even pet food.

The mobile technology clerk is the primary contact for the infected person / family and is responsible for keeping them in self-isolation. To the extent that he / she can also provide support with banking issues if necessary.

This constant accompaniment promotes compliance by creating a social bond rather than forcing them to isolate.

Evidence for the success of the South Korea model is corroborated by published data showing that non-compliance with self-isolation rules in South Korea was extremely low. Those who break the self-isolation rule receive financial support from the government.

The media also participates in daily reporting on the number of people who do not adhere to social distancing norms. The daily number did not exceed 4 in a country of 55 million people!

The UK House of Commons report says that if the local government chooses the South Korean model, it will have to use high-tech surveillance and extensive digital contact tracing at the same time.