South Korea holds december drills to deal with hypothetical outbreak

South Korea took emergency response to a fictional mysterious outbreak in mid-December, helping the country to launch measures to control the arrival and spread of the new corona virus less than a month later, according to an expert who has been involved in the drills,media reported. On December 17th more than 20 of South Korea’s leading infectious disease experts conducted a drill for an imaginary outbreak in which a South Korean family contracted unidentified pneumonia after visiting China, according to an undisclosed government document seen by Reuters.

South Korea holds december drills to deal with hypothetical outbreak

Screenshot of the website (from: KCDC)

This hypothetical disease spreads rapidly among members of the family and colleagues of the medical workers who treat them. In response, a team of experts from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) developed an algorithm to find pathogens and their sources, as well as test techniques.

When South Korea’s first suspected case of new coronavirus emerged on January 20, the measures were mobilized in real life, the document said.

Lee Sang-won, a KCDC expert who led the exercise, said: “Looking back over the past 20 years, humans have been most affected by influenza or coronaviruses, we have done relatively well in dealing with influenza, but have been concerned about the possibility of a new type of coronavirus. “

He added: “It was blind luck – we didn’t expect that to happen.” But this work has helped us save a lot of time in developing testing methods and confirmed cases. “

The exercise played a key role in helping South Korea respond to the new coronavirus outbreak through active and sustained testing.

After an early mass outbreak, South Korea conducted extensive tests within a few days and launched an extensive project to test people who have no symptoms but may be able to infect others, isolate confirmed patients and track people who have come into contact with them.

South Korea has won praise for taking fewer interventions to control the spread of the disease. There are currently 9,583 confirmed cases and 158 deaths in South Korea, and efforts have been made to bring the number of new infections daily below 100 in the past three weeks.

Lee Sang-won said the KCDC team, which was formed in 2018 as part of a research team, has been hoping to improve large-scale DNA analysis capabilities after the agency received much public criticism for its response to the 2015 outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The document also shows that KCDC established testing methods on January 4 and began testing suspected cases on January 9. By early March, South Korea could conduct up to 20,000 tests a day, and five companies produced test kits for domestic use and export.

“We may be a little overreacting when there are only a few domestic infections, but there is a real possibility of reaching pandemic levels,” Lee Sang-won said. Are we doing well? I do not know. But we don’t want to repeat what we experienced in 2015 – our motto is “Never again.”