‘Too early to call Korea’s Covid-19 control success’

Choi Gwang-seok  Published 2020.05.21  17:08  Updated 2020.05.21 17:08


An infectious disease expert warned that it would be too early to conclude that Korea’s response to the new coronavirus was successful.

Professor Lee Jong-koo of Seoul National University College of Medicine expressed his opinions at an online forum on Korea’s response to Covid-19 and challenges, on Wednesday.

Professor Lee Jong-koo of Seoul National University College of Medicine speaks during a webinar on Korea’s response to Covid-19 and challenges on Wednesday.

“It is too early to call Korea’s disease control and prevention a success. This is not over,” Lee said. “We should not be quick to say that what we’ve done so far will make us the last winner. If we standardize the global mortality rate, we didn’t do so well.”

A significant fall in confirmed cases recently looked seemingly good, not because Koreans responded well but because it was compared to the massive infections tied to the Shincheonji Church in February and March. “Korea’s Covid-19 death rate is higher than that of Japan. Korea’s response was never better than in other countries. It was just an average,” Lee noted.

The Covid-19 infections made about 2,000 patients seriously ill, and they overwhelmed the nation’s healthcare system, he went on to say.

“Most medical institutions are privately run, so there is no room for admitting severe patients. We have to prepare such facilities, which will be a preparation for a secondary spread of Covid-19,” he emphasized.

Park Hong-jun, vice president of the Korean Medical Association, also regretted the health authorities’ initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“A disease control and prevention should be based on medical evidence, but the Korean one seems to be politically biased,” Park said. Also, the government seems to be focused too much on promoting the nation’s success of Covid-19 control and the nationwide campaign to take to social media to thank healthcare workers for fighting Covid-19, he added.

Park argued that the government was less than eager to share clinical data of Covid-19 patients.

“We need their clinical information and various data to examine patients accurately and conduct related research. However, the government rarely shared them with us. The government is too passive about data sharing,” he said.

Jee Young-mee, a member of the WHO’s Emergency Committee for Covid-19, said the government should take a more aggressive approach to share patients’ clinical data.

“There are more than 2,300 studies regarding Covid-19 treatment globally as of Friday, but only eight are from Korea,” she said.

As Korea responded well to the outbreak and accumulated many epidemiological and clinical data, the nation needs to analyze and share them more rapidly, Jee said. Korea needs to invest more in R&D and enhance cooperation with global partners, she added.

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