How Korea is dealing with Coronavirus

As of 12 o’clock today, 25 July, South Korea has had 298 deaths from Coronavirus, compared to 45,677 in the UK, and it’s been interesting to see how they’re dealing with the pandemic and how it differs from the way the UK is dealing with it.

Quarantine is taken very seriously here – you’re not allowed to leave the airport until you can prove that you have accommodation sorted for your 14-day isolation period. The Korean army is at the airport, processing everyone, installing the quarantining app on everyone’s phone, calling your named contact in Korea to make sure they exist, and checking up on your accommodation. Once they’re satisfied that you have somewhere to go, you are escorted to a taxi – no public transport allowed – to be taken to a testing centre and then on to your accommodation.

Once you get to your quarantine accommodation you’re not allowed to leave the room, and the quarantine officer will visit you and will also phone you up occasionally to make sure you’re at home and haven’t sneaked out and left your phone behind. Your test result is texted to you within 24 hours – not sure what happens if you test positive as we were both negative.

The quarantine app will remind you twice a day that you have to fill in your details and confirm that you’re not ill –

and you have to check your temperature on a little sticker that you have to wear all the time –

… rather like a mood ring.

Then, once you’re out of quarantine and into normal life, the three important things are –

  • wearing a mask
  • checking your temperature
  • cleanliness

Suprisingly, for someone who’s just come from the UK, there’s no insistence on social distancing. Restaurant tables are cheek by jowl –

– and obviously nobody’s wearing a mask when they’re eating.

And the underground is rammed –

but as long as you wear a mask, nobody’s worried.

You have your temperature taken when you go into a hotel, school, office, dental surgery, museum – in fact, pretty much everywhere apart from shops … and the bigger shops have a thermal imaging camera in the entrance scanning everyone. You also have to give your name and phone number whenever you have your temperature taken, so they can contact you if anyone there tests positive for the virus in the near future.

Some precautions are a little over the top –

but on the whole it’s very sensible.

Keeping everything clean and germ-free is paramount too. I reckon there’s enough hand gel in this country to fill Lake Baikal several times over; it’s on offer in every subway station, shop, museum, hotel, restaurant, royal palace etc etc.

There are cleaners on the subway trains and in the stations, sweeping and polishing, and there are UV lights disinfecting the handrails of the escalators –

so that we can clutch them with confidence on our descent into the sanitised bowels of Seoul.

But more than anything else, people are being sensible here and they’re following the rules. Nobody’s kicking off about having to wear a mask, but equally nobody’s crossing the road or jumping into a hedge to avoid other people, and I find that very reassuring.