South Korea's success in disease control stems from intense surveillance


South Korea was widely praised for controlling the outbreak and spread of coronavirus disease COVID-19. The focus was on South Korea huge virus testing program,

What was not so widespread is the intensive use of video surveillance technology in the country, especially the video surveillance system and tracking the use of bank cards and mobile phones, in order to determine who should be checked first. And this is an important lesson for more liberal countries that may be less tolerant of such privacy measures, but hope to emulate the success of South Korea.

While Taiwan and Singapore have superior in content to coronavirusSouth Korea and China may provide better models for ending outbreaks when a large number of people have been infected. China has isolated confirmed and potential patients and has restricted the movement of citizens as well as international travel. But South Korea has achieved a similar level of control and low mortality (currently 1%) without resorting to such authoritarian measures. This certainly looks like a standard for liberal democracies.

Most noticeable part South Korean Strategy simple enough: test, test and test yet. The country learned from 2015 flash mer and reorganized his disease control system. She has a good large-capacity healthcare system and a well-developed biotechnology industry that can quickly produce test kits.

These factors allow the country to implement 15,000 tests per daymaking it second after China in absolute numbers and third place in the world for testing per person. But since COVID-19 is a mild illness for most people, only a small proportion of patients tend to contact health authorities for testing based on their symptoms or known contact with infected people. Many patients with mild symptoms, especially young ones, do not realize that they are ill and infect others.

If these patients cannot be found, testing options are not very significant. This is where the infrastructure of the “smart city” comes into play. The goal is to find out where the famous patients were and to check anyone who could contact them. There are three main ways to track people.

Firstly, credit and debit cards. South Korea has the highest share cashless payments in the world. By tracking transactions, you can draw map user movements on the map.

Mobile phones can be used to track patient movements.
Alex Plavevsky / EPA

Secondly, mobile phones can be used for the same purpose. In 2019, South Korea was one of the world highest phone ownership (there are more phones than people). The location of the phone is automatically recorded with complete accuracy, because the devices are connected to one or three transceivers at any time. And there are about 860,000 4G and 5G transceivers tightly covering the whole country,

It is important that telephone companies require all customers to provide their real names and national registration numbers. This means that you can track almost everyone by tracking the location of their phones.

Finally, surveillance cameras also allow authorities to identify people who have been in contact with patients with COVID-19. In 2014, South Korean cities had more than 8 million surveillance cameras, or one camera per 6.3 peopleIn 2010, everyone was caught on average 83.1 times a day and every nine seconds while travelingThese numbers are likely to be much higher today. Given the country's physical size, it is safe to say that South Korea has one of the highest densities of surveillance technology in the world.

data usage

The combination of these three technologies means two things. First, health authorities can find out who the infected person was with after infection. In public buildings, there are dead spots without video surveillance or a mobile phone signal, but there are not many. In this way, almost all potential patients can be found and tested.

Secondly, the movement of a new patient can be compared with the movement of earlier patients using geographic information systems. This comparison shows exactly where, when, and from whom the new patient became infected. If they cannot be connected to a known earlier patient, this means that unknown patients exist and can then be identified using the method described above. The number of unknown patients at any time is an indicator of whether the virus is still spreading, and whether there will be more cases in the coming days, or whether the situation has been taken under control.

Tracking result not only used by health authorities but also made public through national and local government websites, free smartphone apps showing infection sites, and text message updates about new local cases. This will help citizens avoid hot spots of infections.

In many ways, this is a reassessment of private information about movements of people. But in fact, this is an effective way to gain confidence from the authorities, which, in turn, is important to prevent panic among the population. It can be argued that this was successful because South Korea is one of the few countries where the outbreak of COVID-19 did not cause a panic in supermarkets.

However, there is a serious problem for other countries considering similar measures. The level of observation and disclosure of the personal information in question is unlikely to be easily accepted by most other liberal democratic societies.

The difference between the South Korean approach and the approach of European countries is not a simple cliché of oriental collectivism versus western individualism. In fact, information exposure can prevent the need for blocking people's movements.

Thus, governments around the world face a difficult choice between these two violations of personal rights (disclosure and restriction of movement). South Korea chose the first, while France and Italy had to choose the second. The first requires the necessary infrastructure and culture, which allows a certain level of observation, none of which can be created overnight.



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