National Response to COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea and Lessons Learned for Other Countries
Oh, Juhwan et al.
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In the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) had the second highest number of cases globally yet was able to dramatically lower the incidence of new cases and sustain a low mortality rate, making it a promising example of strong national response. We describe the main strategies undertaken and selected facilitators and challenges in order to identify transferable lessons for other countries working to control the spread and impact of COVID-19. Identified strategies included early recognition of the threat and rapid activation of national response protocols led by national leadership; rapid establishment of diagnostic capacity; scale-up of measures for preventing community transmission; and redesigning the triage and treatment systems, mobilizing the necessary resources for clinical care. Facilitators included existing hospital capacity, the epidemiology of the COVID-19 outbreak, and strong national leadership despite political changes and population sensitization due to the 2015 Middle East respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) epidemic. Challenges included sustaining adequate human resources and supplies in high-caseload areas. Key recommendations include recognize the problem, establish diagnostic capacity, implement aggressive measures to prevent community transmission, redesign and reallocate clinical resources for the new environment, and work to limit economic impact through and while prioritizing controlling the spread and impact of COVID-19. South Korea’s strategies to prevent, detect, and respond to the pandemic represent applicable knowledge that can be adopted by other countries and the global community facing the enormous COVID-19 challenges ahead.