South Korea's emergency exercise in December facilitated coronavirus testing, containment

Source(s): Thomson Reuters

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean tabletop exercise on emergency responses to a fictional mysterious outbreak led directly to tools the country deployed less than a month later to manage the arrival and spread of the coronavirus, one of the experts involved said.

According to an undisclosed government document seen by Reuters, on Dec. 17 two dozen leading South Korean infectious diseases specialists tackled a worrying scenario: a South Korean family contracts pneumonia after a trip to China, where cases of an unidentified disease had arisen.

[...]

Soon after the drill, the coronavirus epidemic emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, prompting the experts to begin considering that it might be a novel coronavirus. Even before Beijing officially declared it, the South Korean team was ready to begin testing, Lee said.

The document also showed the KCDC established testing methodology on Jan. 4, three days before Chinese authorities identified the virus, and started testing suspected cases on Jan. 9. By early March, South Korea was capable of running as many as 20,000 tests a day, with five firms churning out kits for domestic use and export.

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