Day six in the Corona house and with some time on my hand I’ve been brushing up my Excel charting and data analysis skills. It may not be exactly party animal territory but there’s plenty of time for that next week. In any event, tracking the declared cases in a few countries has shown most on the typical curve described by Italy’s example.
However, there is one country that is significantly bucking the trend. The graph below shows recent cases reported. (Starting from the top down, these are Light blue = Italy, Dark blue = South Korea, Light green = Spain, Yellow = France, Magenta = USA, Brown = UK)
While five of the six are on various sharply increasing inclines, South Korea started to flatten out around a week ago and has largely maintained that since then. The obvious question is how.
There are some clear answers but if comparing them to the UK or even just considering how we might feel if they were imposed here, you may be less than happy.
Firstly, the country has taken a fundamentally different approach to that of the UK. South Korea has implemented both broad and targetted testing with spot cleaning.
Targetted testing has been focused on flights and trains arriving from hot-spots. Whereas I walked back through Heathrow unstopped having just flown in from Milan, in South Korea I would have been stopped, tested, assessed and been ‘required’ to self-isolate pending the results of my tests. You’ll note the use of the word required, penalties include seriously tough fines and in cases of symptomatic detection, detention as a last resort.
When you see that those undertaking the tests at airports and other centres are dressed in full haz-chem or NBC kit, you may get a sense of why spread to key health workers has also been significantly lower than anywhere else.
In addition to targetting entry routes into the country, general testing of the population has been the key. Anyone with flu-like symptoms or pneumonia has been tested for the condition and again isolated for a period of 14 days. To give you a sense of scale, the UK has undertaken 37,000 tests for Coronovirus over recent days although this has now been limited/focused to those tested in hospitals. By contrast over the same period, South Korea had undertaken in excess of 300,000 tests in hospitals and in the wider community isolating those who tested positive.
Contrast the countless number in the UK told they must wait for at least seven days before they can be tested at one of fifty drive through testing centres running across Korea. Their idea is focus on identification and testing – something which we have yet to do.
When a hotspot within the country is identified, such as an office building, street or housing complex, it is cleaned. A cleaning team (as seen in the picture left) disinfects anything it encounters. These are repeated at least twice after the initial treatment. South Korea has had bans on mass meetings, group activities and sporting events for well over ten days now and there is little sign of that restriction being relaxed.
It may come as no surprise that in country that has made its recent name on technology, this also plays a part in maintaining the self isolation phase for it’s citizens. If you find yourself in lockdown in south Korea, your phone and credit/debit cards are recorded and scanned. Over the period of isolation, their use and movement is tracked. So if you breach isolation and pop out for a visit to the local shop or to see friends then this surveillance is very likely to spot it. Again, significant financial penalties and in extremis detention are available to ensure it is maintained.
Finally, where a cluster in identified (such as our clusters in Glasgow and Manchester) significant local funding and additional military medical resource has been poured into the location in an attempt to stamp out hot spots before they take hold. All in all a very different approach to that being taken in the UK.
Twenty four hours after the most recent government announcements, it seems the UK approach may well be ineffective. Several professors of epidemiology and virology have been critical of the actions (or lack thereof) taken by the UK to this point. In the last day, our reported cases have risen from 798 to 1,140 which just to confirm puts us about 2 weeks behind Italy rather than the month suggested by current government announcements. I do wonder why it’s me and not the NHS, Home or Foreign office asking what is South Korea doing that’s causing them to plateau and how can we replicate that success. Let’s hope someone else sees the outlier in the statistics.
In other news from the Corona house, I’m able to confirm we both remain well and I think/hope that we may have been fortunate in not picking up the virus, certainly it seems unlikely we did so in Paris given the timings. Day six would suggest if we don’t become symptomatic by Monday we’re unlikely to have picked it up in Milan either. Time will tell, but fingers remained firmly crossed.
I am also able to confirm in the Brent Alexander dunny-roll challenge that the initial legacy roll (half an inch of tread) has left the building to be replaced by Billy the bogroll. Further updates will follow but it does appear that Vaughan is at the ‘light user’ end of the Andrex scale.
An unexpected bonus as a result of the isolation is that we have more time to spend on things we never got around to doing before. Vaughan has been doing something new and exciting with a chicken for the last 24 hours.
I’m advised that the concoction marinating in the fridge is going to be the base of a Chicken cacciatori. I know others have struggled with two weeks in isolation, however, so far the food, activities and company have been excellent.
Six days down, eight to go.