How South Korea kept its COVID-19 infection rate down

South Korea’s foreign minister shares the secret to her country’s coronavirus success.
11:31 | 05/22/20

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Transcript for How South Korea kept its COVID-19 infection rate down
South Korea reported its first corona virus case the very same day as the US January 20 the South Korea has kept its infection and death rates much lower than we have recording about 111000 cases in fewer than 300 deaths in the country. Is now up and running we bring in South Korea's foreign minister Kong's young Kwan thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me so to pick your brain on a number of topics related to corona virus because the response and South Korea has been so widely applauded strategies like screening people who entered the country drive through testing disinfection protocols in contact tracing. Dipping South Korea's strategies could work in the US and even if they could. Do you think perhaps it's too late for Americans to adopt them. Well I think first of all our country has never been closed we've always kept to society open. And the border open and we were able to do this because we had the three keys. Testing treatment tracing and and treatments. A very robust system of the three tease. I think the three keys are that the key to any fight against any infectious disease. And it just so happens that our recent experience we've been Maris outbreak in 2015. Lay the seeds for this success this time. Our response to mayors in 2015 was not that laudable there was lots of shortcoming. But having learned from that experience we've beefed up the disease control. Infrastructure. And legal framework and and that has really been put to the full test as successfully I must say this time. And in addition to the three T is part of South Korea's strategy for isolating corona virus cases early on reliant on government surveillance did you ever have any concerns about privacy rights. And how do you see that bounced against protecting public health. So I surveillance is not. Quite the term that I would use in the tracing the tracing is absolutely necessary to attract down the patients. And the close context as early as possible to isolate them so that you are then able to preserve. The freedom of movement of the rest of society I eat in order to keep society open. It's imperative that you quickly isolate and quarantine. The patients and the close contacts the privacy issue comes in because of the information that we read these to the public. About the movement of the patients. Are a disease control. Law all also guarantees the public's right to know. About health issues that us affect them that it is a government responsibility. To inform the public a bell with the evolving nature of this infection and the movements of the patient could. Informing the public about where the patients have been. Prior to being confirmed as positive. So that they convinced see if they've crossed paths with with a confirmed patients. And decide for themselves if they need to come forward and get tested. So the privacy issue of the patient is is the issue here and we've been very cautious to limit the information that is. Provided to the public about the movements of the patient. Want to move on to education from moment after a few false starts South Korean schools began reopening just this week. We see in some videos students in her wearing masks and plexiglass screens around the desks and temperature checks how confident are you that schools will be able to remain open with these precautions. No we've took the decision to open the schools. Eighty days after the event and they were supposed to open in March. It that doubly place on education is perhaps the highest. That any country and it was extremely important that we get those schools scheduled back on track. And so we have decided to open the schools beginning with a final graders in high school. And that was yesterday. But we made sure that old sanitary measures were in place the requirements on the part of the students themselves. The schools. They'd make sure that the social distancing measures are our well in place and also. Protocols and placed in case anything happens. And as you talk about their bin recent outbreaks. For example there was a recent cove in nineteen closer link to a 29 year old man who visited several nightclubs on one night. How concerned are you about this kind of spread and how were really able to get it contains so. Quickly why I think we've any spikes like this of course it's it's a concern it's a worry. And that particular case has no led to. Nearly 200 cases over and mattress ten or so days. In and this is all originating to some nice club activities. And during the long holiday period in early may. Obviously. The nightclub activities involve a lot of young people who cop bar is I think it's the expression. A move around the country and so that has meant we found. Infections related to the the club activities in all parts of the country. I think once again our testing and tracing capacity. Less put to the test. They quickly wrapped up. Prior to this bike the daily testing numbers were around 5000 or six than 6000. After this spike. We've made its. The testing available anonymous. And and free of cost. Because we realize that many young people who frequent at these establishments. Would be reluctant to come forward to get tested so to make it anonymous. And cost free we've been able to test well over a 60000. I think. Cases over the past ten days and that then has led to. This number of confirmed cases. Both of who went to the establishments themselves but secondary infections. Of their family members their friends. And and then work place colleagues. And so that's actually was going to be my next question is are you. Expecting perhaps a second wave of infections and is there any more preparation that goes into it beyond the three teens. I think we should all. Learn to live would this risk it's a virus that travels very quickly there's a lot we don't know about -- nineteen but. One thing we know that it travels very quickly and it's also travels very silently. People can be spreading the disease without even knowing that they have the virus because. Asymptomatic. People can be contagious. It turns out that. Two days prior to those symptoms showing. That's when and they are most contagious. In addition to the three tease. What we are preparing in terms of the contingencies. You know this whole metropolitan area is Pratt perhaps one of the most crowded spaces on earth. So this whole Citi and governments that surround them provincial government. Wins is the participation of the city government of the intern airport. They are now putting together an integrated hospital management system. So that if a huge numbers of infections were to a rise they would be able to share the hospital resources because what it's very important. Not to get their medical establishments. With a number of patients that they cannot handle. We also have local governments have thing. Contingencies in place for numbers of increases. Hospital beds to take care of the intensive patients but also. What community she care centers we called them that where. Late symptom patients and 80% of them are light sentence some don't even need any care they just need to be. There quarantined and monitored now of course the consistent messaging to the public. That we're not going to go back to life pre coded and this risk is there. And therefore. We knew we need to learn to limp would. With this risk and that means everybody doing their shared two's stick to the sanitary rules. Wearing and masks in public places and public transportation. And and so on and washing your hands of chorus and when you know the message to being that everybody has their roles to play. It is since the United States now has the most infections of any country in the world are you worried then about Americans bringing the virus to South Korea. It we how indeed. And demanded the truck traveled to air travel between Korea and the US. Is still. Very open I mean their flights have. The numbers of flights has been greatly reduced because. That the number of passengers buying tickets but that air travel remains largely open between the United States and Korea. We have Koreans coming in we have other national non she's Americans coming in through this flight and yes there are. People who. Are confirmed. Positive after entry into Korea and this is not just from the United States it's from Europe it's from countries in. In the Middle East end and the whip and West Asia. And again we're not closing the border on then we are managing then. After a series of steps to manage that the incoming traffic. We have introduced as fourteen days of quarantine as ever earned the April for all inbound travelers not to stiff foreigner has the Koreans. At home if you have been addressed. In government facilities if you don't. And also. Since it about. Fifteen days ago we've also introduced. Mandatory testing for all inbound travelers and lastly on a light hearted know the return of baseball has been. Of being deal many sports starved Americans are turning into the Korean baseball league which is being broadcast here in the US how important was that. For your country to bring baseball back. I think corona virus has not his certain their health challenge but this also psychological talents of this prolonged. Period of flock downloads. Mena social distancing it pass to have an impact. On the psychological didn't dimension of the people and so. If movements like this to make. Baseball. You can which is a big part of the leisure activities for the Koreans here as in many other countries to. To have that available. Not. In the in the stadiums but. Without the crowd couldn't available on the on television screens. This is an important move to dress that elements of this global challenge. Thank you minister so much for your time we appreciate. Thank you very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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