Coronavirus: South Korea milestone as authorities report no new domestic cases for first time since February

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Country's test-and-contain strategy has paid dividends after it reported first major outbreak outside mainland China

World | The Independent

South Korea has reported no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time since February, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Thursday, as the country continues to make headway in tackling and containing its Covid-19 outbreak.

KCDC reported four new infections, all imported cases, taking the national tally to 10,765. The death toll rose by one to 247, while 9,059 have been discharged.

To date, South Korea has recorded a total of 1,065 imported cases, 90 per cent of which have been Korean citizens, according to the KCDC.

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The country reached a peak of 909 daily infections on 29 February, before that figure was brought down into the dozens by late March. The number of domestic cases has repeatedly dropped into single digits throughout April, and has now reached zero.

Health authorities have also concluded that no local transmissions took place during the country’s parliamentary election this month.

Extensive safety measures were taken, with voters required to wear masks and plastic gloves when casting ballots. Polling stations across the country were also disinfected, while people were made to maintain a 1m distance between each other.

“Twenty-nine million voters participated in the 15 April parliamentary election ... Not one case related to the election has been reported during the 14-day incubation period,” Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy, told a briefing.

A clinical expert panel on Wednesday also concluded that recovered coronavirus patients who later tested positive for the virus again were in fact not “reactivated” or reinfected, but were false positives.

The head of the committee said the false positives were due to technical limits of the test kits used. The country has so far reported 292 such cases.

After reporting the first major outbreak outside mainland China, South Korea succeeded in flattening the infection curve within the space of a few weeks – without enforcing an extensive lockdown – with a policy of “test, trace and contain”.

By the time the World Health Organisation urged countries in mid-March to “test, test, test”, South Korea had already developed the capacity to test up to 20,000 people a day.

Mobile technology, GPS phone tracking and camera surveillance were also used to help authorities trace contact and potential transmission between people, many of whom would not have even known they had Covid-19.

Although concerns remain high of a second surge in infections, restrictions on shops, restaurants, bars and religious services are due to be eased if the country’s caseload maintains a decline, while parks and public gardens are also set to gradually open.

  • Coronavirus: South Korea milestone as authorities report no new domestic cases for first time since February photo

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