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As an American currently in South Korea, it’s very interesting to me the stark contrast of how different the two countries’ response to coronavirus is. I don’t think most Americans fully understand the lengths that South Korea has undergone, so I’ll try my best to explain.
1) Upon arrival, they take your temperature at the airport and ask if you’ve experienced any symptoms. If you have, they move you to a separate area and give you a coronavirus test. If you haven’t, they take you to another area and interview you. They also install ankle bracelets
2) You are required to install an app on your phone and enable location tracking all the time. You are required to self-report symptoms in the app twice a day. If you don’t have symptoms, you need to report that too. This goes on for a period of 14 days
During this time, you are not allowed to leave the quarantine dormitory or your home if you’ve chosen to self-isolate at home. You cannot take public transportation or taxi, and you cannot self-isolate in a hotel or Airbnb. If you don’t have a home, you must use the dorm.
If you break quarantine, you are fined $10,000 USD and face jail time. Also, they check your location on your phone frequently. My wife had her location checked 37 times in a 3 day span. And they’ve caught enterprising folks who leave their phone at home and go out.
During this self-isolation, you cannot have contact with anyone during this time. They give you special trash bags to throw away your trash in, and people in hazmat suits come and collect your trash upon request.
You are assigned to a case worker who is responsible for making sure you are following all the orders. They will call you and text you to make sure you are OK. They also will send you care packages that contains a lot of food, gloves and masks, sanitary pads for women, etc.
3) If there’s a new coronavirus case in your general area (same city or district), you get a Public Safety Alert on your phone that tell you about the person (age, male/female, city) and provides updates as they receive them.
I forgot to mention that Korea also has mobilized their army to provide more operations and logistics support at the airport.
We were required to get a COVID-19 test within 3 days of arriving, which is the only activity that’s allowed to break quarantine. You have to do this in coordination with the case worker. As a family of 4, we were done testing in about 10 minutes. Test results came in 7 hours.
In response to recent public safety alerts, my family changed our plans for the next several weeks to avoid certain areas. Places with lots of traffic like Korea’s version of Walmart have temperature monitors installed so you can see everyone’s temperature.
There’s absolutely no protests or demonstrations about the anti-freedom measures or invasion of privacy. I’m not an expert in Korean politics but it seems like everyone accepts these measures as required to address this pandemic.
While we still take precautions like wearing masks in public, washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, etc., I feel pretty confident that the government knows everyone who has coronavirus and is tracking things very closely, which means I don’t have to worry as much.
And like some of the articles have mentioned, if you’ve been to a place where someone who has coronavirus has also visited, someone will contact you to get tested and undergo self-isolation for another 14-day period.
Contrast that with the situation in the US... no one really knows everyone who has coronavirus, so you have to assume that everyone has it. And there’s really no actionable plan to address that particular issue.
Not trying to be political, just wanted to showcase the situation in a country that seems to have an actionable plan that has resulted in a dramatic decrease in cases and fatalities. In case people were interested.
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