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COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea

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COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea
COVID-19 in South Korea - Photo montage.jpg
From top to bottom then from left to right: a queue in front of a pharmacy in Wonju for the distribution of masks, a drone of disinfection in Seongnam, a closed elementary school in Daegu, protest inscriptions against Shincheonji on a car, video call between members of the South Korean government, manufacturing of masks in Busan, 2020 South Korean legislative election, admission of a symptomatic patient to a hospital in Busan, portable medical negative pressure isolation stretcher in a fire station in Hoengseong, firefighters' training in Daegu, thermal camera at the entrance to Wonju hospital, temperature check at Incheon International Airport, drive-through testing in Gyeongju.
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in South Korea (Density).svg
Map of special cities & municipals with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases (as of 3 August):
  Confirmed 1–9
  Confirmed 10–99
  Confirmed 100–499
  Confirmed 500–999
  Confirmed 1000–9999
  Confirmed ≥10000
Coronavirus Outbreak in South Korea over Time.gif
Coronavirus pandemic in South Korea over time (since January 20, 2020).
 
  Number of cases (logarithmically)
  Day not included in map
  Day included in map
  Last day included in map
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationSouth Korea
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseIncheon International Airport
Arrival date20 January 2020
(6 months, 2 weeks and 6 days)
Confirmed cases14,562
Active cases629
Suspected cases16,105
Recovered13,629
Deaths
304
Fatality rate2.09%
Government website
ncov.mohw.go.kr/en
Suspected cases have not been confirmed as being due to this strain by laboratory tests, although some other strains may have been ruled out.

The COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On 20 January 2020, the first case in South Korea was announced.[1] The number of confirmed cases increased on 19 February by 20, and on 20 February by 58[2] or 70,[3] giving a total of 346 confirmed cases on 21 February 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Korea (KCDC), with the sudden jump mostly attributed to "Patient 31" who participated in a gathering at a Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony church in Daegu.[3][4]

Amidst the fears of further contamination, mass gatherings in the affected cities were cancelled and a few hundred soldiers in Daegu were placed in isolation.[5][6] On 4 February 2020, in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, South Korea began denying entry to foreigners traveling from Hubei Province.[7][8]

By 9 April 2020, South Korea had about 10,423 cases and 204 deaths,[9] with over 494,711 people having been tested, a case fatality rate of 1.95%, which is lower than the WHO's global case fatality rate of 4.34%.[10]

South Korea introduced what was considered one of the largest and best-organised epidemic control programs in the world, along with Taiwan,[11] and Vietnam.[12] Different measures have been taken to screen the mass population for the virus, and isolate any infected people as well as trace and quarantine those who contacted them, without further lockdown.[13][14] The rapid and extensive tests taken by South Korea have been judged successful in limiting the spread of the outbreak, without using the drastic measure of quarantining entire cities.[13][15][16]

Timeline

Epidemic curve of COVID-19 in South Korea


COVID-19 cases in South Korea  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases

Jan Jan Feb Feb Mar Mar Apr Apr May May Jun Jun Jul Jul Aug Aug Last 15 days Last 15 days

Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-01-20
1(n.a.)
1(=)
2020-01-24
2(+100%)
2020-01-25
2(=)
2020-01-26
3(+50%)
2020-01-27
4(+33%)
4(=)
2020-01-30
6(+50%)
2020-01-31
11(+83%)
2020-02-01
12(+9.1%)
2020-02-02
15(+25%)
2020-02-03
15(=)
2020-02-04
16(+6.7%)
2020-02-05
19(+19%)
2020-02-06
23(+21%)
2020-02-07
24(+4.3%)
2020-02-08
24(=)
2020-02-09
27(+12%)
2020-02-10
27(=)
2020-02-11
28(+3.7%)
28(=)
2020-02-16
29(+3.6%)
2020-02-17
30(+3.4%)
2020-02-18
31(+3.3%)
2020-02-19
51(+65%)
2020-02-20
104(+104%) 1(n.a.)
2020-02-21
204(+96%) 2(+100%)
2020-02-22
433(+112%) 2(=)
2020-02-23
602(+39%) 4(+100%)
2020-02-24
833(+38%) 7(+75%)
2020-02-25
977(+17%) 10(+43%)
2020-02-26
1,261(+29%) 12(+20%)
2020-02-27
1,766(+40%) 13(+8.3%)
2020-02-28
2,337(+32%) 13(=)
2020-02-29
3,150(+35%) 17(+31%)
2020-03-01
4,212(+34%) 22(+29%)
2020-03-02
4,812(+14%) 28(+27%)
2020-03-03
5,328(+11%) 32(+14%)
2020-03-04
5,766(+8.2%) 35(+9.4%)
2020-03-05
6,284(+9%) 42(+20%)
2020-03-06
6,767(+7.7%) 44(+4.8%)
2020-03-07
7,134(+5.4%) 50(+14%)
2020-03-08
7,382(+3.5%) 51(+2%)
2020-03-09
7,513(+1.8%) 54(+5.9%)
2020-03-10
7,755(+3.2%) 60(+11%)
2020-03-11
7,869(+1.5%) 66(+10%)
2020-03-12
7,979(+1.4%) 67(+1.5%)
2020-03-13
8,086(+1.3%) 72(+7.5%)
2020-03-14
8,162(+0.94%) 75(+4.2%)
2020-03-15
8,236(+0.91%) 75(=)
2020-03-16
8,320(+1%) 81(+8%)
2020-03-17
8,413(+1.1%) 84(+3.7%)
2020-03-18
8,565(+1.8%) 91(+8.3%)
2020-03-19
8,652(+1%) 94(+3.3%)
2020-03-20
8,799(+1.7%) 102(+8.5%)
2020-03-21
8,897(+1.1%) 104(+2%)
2020-03-22
8,961(+0.72%) 111(+6.7%)
2020-03-23
9,037(+0.85%) 120(+8.1%)
2020-03-24
9,137(+1.1%) 126(+5%)
2020-03-25
9,241(+1.1%) 131(+4%)
2020-03-26
9,332(+0.98%) 139(+6.1%)
2020-03-27
9,478(+1.6%) 144(+3.6%)
2020-03-28
9,583(+1.1%) 152(+5.6%)
2020-03-29
9,661(+0.81%) 158(+3.9%)
2020-03-30
9,786(+1.3%) 162(+2.5%)
2020-03-31
9,887(+1%) 165(+1.9%)
2020-04-01
9,976(+0.9%) 169(+2.4%)
2020-04-02
10,062(+0.86%) 174(+3%)
2020-04-03
10,156(+0.93%) 177(+1.7%)
2020-04-04
10,237(+0.8%) 183(+3.4%)
2020-04-05
10,284(+0.46%) 186(+1.6%)
2020-04-06
10,331(+0.46%) 192(+3.2%)
2020-04-07
10,384(+0.51%) 200(+4.2%)
2020-04-08
10,423(+0.38%) 204(+2%)
2020-04-09
10,450(+0.26%) 208(+2%)
2020-04-10
10,480(+0.29%) 211(+1.4%)
2020-04-11
10,512(+0.31%) 214(+1.4%)
2020-04-12
10,537(+0.24%) 217(+1.4%)
2020-04-13
10,564(+0.26%) 222(+2.3%)
2020-04-14
10,591(+0.26%) 225(+1.4%)
2020-04-15
10,613(+0.21%) 229(+1.8%)
2020-04-16
10,635(+0.21%) 230(+0.44%)
2020-04-17
10,653(+0.17%) 232(+0.87%)
2020-04-18
10,661(+0.08%) 234(+0.86%)
2020-04-19
10,674(+0.12%) 236(+0.85%)
2020-04-20
10,683(+0.08%) 237(+0.42%)
2020-04-21
10,694(+0.1%) 238(+0.42%)
2020-04-22
10,702(+0.07%) 240(+0.84%)
2020-04-23
10,708(+0.06%) 240(=)
2020-04-24
10,718(+0.09%) 240(=)
2020-04-25
10,728(+0.09%) 242(+0.83%)
2020-04-26
10,738(+0.09%) 243(+0.41%)
2020-04-27
10,752(+0.13%) 244(+0.41%)
2020-04-28
10,761(+0.08%) 246(+0.82%)
2020-04-29
10,765(+0.04%) 247(+0.41%)
2020-04-30
10,774(+0.08%) 248(+0.4%)
2020-05-01
10,780(+0.06%) 250(+0.81%)
2020-05-02
10,793(+0.12%) 250(=)
2020-05-03
10,801(+0.07%) 252(+0.8%)
2020-05-04
10,804(+0.03%) 254(+0.79%)
2020-05-05
10,806(+0.02%) 255(+0.39%)
2020-05-06
10,810(+0.04%) 256(+0.39%)
2020-05-07
10,822(+0.11%) 256(=)
2020-05-08
10,840(+0.17%) 256(=)
2020-05-09
10,874(+0.31%) 256(=)
2020-05-10
10,909(+0.32%) 256(=)
2020-05-11
10,936(+0.25%) 258(+0.78%)
2020-05-12
10,962(+0.24%) 259(+0.39%)
2020-05-13
10,991(+0.26%) 260(+0.39%)
2020-05-14
11,018(+0.25%) 260(=)
2020-05-15
11,037(+0.17%) 262(+0.77%)
2020-05-16
11,050(+0.12%) 262(=)
2020-05-17
11,065(+0.14%) 263(+0.38%)
2020-05-18
11,078(+0.12%) 263(=)
2020-05-19
11,110(+0.29%) 263(=)
2020-05-20
11,122(+0.11%) 264(+0.38%)
2020-05-21
11,142(+0.18%) 264(=)
2020-05-22
11,165(+0.21%) 266(+0.76%)
2020-05-23
11,190(+0.22%) 266(=)
2020-05-24
11,206(+0.14%) 267(+0.38%)
2020-05-25
11,225(+0.17%) 269(+0.75%)
2020-05-26
11,265(+0.36%) 269(=)
2020-05-27
11,344(+0.7%) 269(=)
2020-05-28
11,402(+0.51%) 269(=)
2020-05-29
11,441(+0.34%) 269(=)
2020-05-30
11,468(+0.24%) 270(+0.37%)
2020-05-31
11,503(+0.31%) 271(+0.37%)
2020-06-01
11,541(+0.33%) 272(+0.37%)
2020-06-02
11,590(+0.42%) 273(+0.37%)
2020-06-03
11,629(+0.34%) 273(=)
2020-06-04
11,668(+0.34%) 273(=)
2020-06-05
11,719(+0.44%) 273(=)
2020-06-06
11,776(+0.49%) 273(=)
2020-06-07
11,814(+0.32%) 273(=)
2020-06-08
11,852(+0.32%) 274(+0.37%)
2020-06-09
11,902(+0.42%) 276(+0.73%)
2020-06-10
11,947(+0.38%) 276(=)
2020-06-11
12,003(+0.47%) 277(+0.36%)
2020-06-12
12,051(+0.4%) 277(=)
2020-06-13
12,085(+0.28%) 277(=)
2020-06-14
12,121(+0.3%) 277(=)
2020-06-15
12,155(+0.28%) 278(+0.36%)
2020-06-16
12,198(+0.35%) 279(+0.36%)
2020-06-17
12,257(+0.48%) 280(+0.36%)
2020-06-18
12,306(+0.4%) 280(=)
2020-06-19
12,373(+0.54%) 280(=)
2020-06-20
12,421(+0.39%) 280(=)
2020-06-21
12,438(+0.14%) 280(=)
2020-06-22
12,484(+0.37%) 281(+0.36%)
2020-06-23
12,535(+0.41%) 281(=)
2020-06-24
12,563(+0.22%) 282(+0.36%)
2020-06-25
12,602(+0.31%) 282(=)
2020-06-26
12,653(+0.4%) 282(=)
2020-06-27
12,715(+0.49%) 282(=)
2020-06-28
12,757(+0.33%) 282(=)
2020-06-29
12,800(+0.34%) 282(=)
2020-06-30
12,850(+0.39%) 282(=)
2020-07-01
12,904(+0.42%) 282(=)
2020-07-02
12,967(+0.49%) 282(=)
2020-07-03
13,030(+0.49%) 283(+0.35%)
2020-07-04
13,091(+0.47%) 283(=)
2020-07-05
13,137(+0.35%) 284(+0.35%)
2020-07-06
13,181(+0.33%) 285(+0.35%)
2020-07-07
13,244(+0.48%) 285(=)
2020-07-08
13,293(+0.37%) 287(+0.7%)
2020-07-09
13,338(+0.34%) 288(+0.35%)
2020-07-10
13,373(+0.26%) 288(=)
2020-07-11
13,417(+0.33%) 289(+0.35%)
2020-07-12
13,479(+0.46%) 289(=)
2020-07-13
13,512(+0.24%) 289(=)
2020-07-14
13,551(+0.29%) 289(=)
2020-07-15
13,612(+0.45%) 291(+0.69%)
2020-07-16
13,672(+0.44%) 293(+0.69%)
2020-07-17
13,711(+0.29%) 294(+0.34%)
2020-07-18
13,745(+0.25%) 295(+0.34%)
2020-07-19
13,771(+0.19%) 296(+0.34%)
2020-07-20
13,816(+0.33%) 296(=)
2020-07-21
13,879(+0.46%) 297(+0.34%)
2020-07-22
13,938(+0.43%) 297(=)
2020-07-23
13,979(+0.29%) 298(+0.34%)
2020-07-24
14,092(+0.81%) 298(=)
2020-07-25
14,150(+0.41%) 298(=)
2020-07-26
14,175(+0.18%) 299(+0.34%)
2020-07-27
14,203(+0.2%) 300(+0.33%)
2020-07-28
14,251(+0.34%) 300(=)
2020-07-29
14,269(+0.13%) 300(=)
2020-07-30
14,305(+0.25%) 301(+0.33%)
2020-07-31
14,336(+0.22%) 301(=)
2020-08-01
14,366(+0.21%) 301(=)
2020-08-02
14,389(+0.16%) 301(=)
2020-08-03
14,423(+0.24%) 301(=)
2020-08-04
14,456(+0.23%) 302(+0.33%)
2020-08-05
14,499(+0.3%) 302(=)
2020-08-06
14,519(+0.14%) 303(+0.33%)
2020-08-07
14,562(+0.3%) 304(+0.33%)
2020-08-08
14,598(+0.25%) 305(+0.33%)
Data sourced from KCDC; see the statistics for detailed references.


Map of special cities & municipals with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases (as of 3 August):
  Confirmed cases reported
  Suspected cases reported
  14 days no confirmed cases
Confirmed cases per million residents by province or city
Number of confirmed coronavirus cases by provinces & special cities.

During the first four weeks, South Korea controlled the potential spread of COVID-19 by using high-tech resources like tracking the use of credit cards and checking CCTV footage of confirmed patients. However, since 18 February, the number of cases increased to more than 1,700 after discovery of the fact that patient No. 31 was a member of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Some media reported that was difficult for KCDC to screen the patient because Shincheonji teaches that illness is sin. Many members were uncooperative with KCDC and could not be contacted.[17] Shincheonji denied this, and other sources report that the sect did cooperate with the authorities.[18] About half of confirmed cases were linked to the Shincheonji Church as of 27 February; this was verified by health officials.[19] As of 10 March, the KCDC was able to contact and test most of the Shincheonji Church members, with the total number of tests nationally standing at around 200,000.[citation needed]

20 January – 17 February

On 20 January, the first confirmed case was identified as a 35-year-old Chinese woman. The first South Korean national to be infected occurred three days later was a 55-year-old man who worked in Wuhan and returned for a checkup with flu symptoms. The two infection reports were publicly released on 24 January.[1]

On 26 January, a third case as a 54-year-old South Korean man. He had used a rental car and visited three restaurants, a hotel, a convenience store and met his family before admitting himself to hospital. All these places were disinfected.[citation needed]

On 27 January, a fourth case was reported as a 55-year-old South Korean man who returned from Wuhan on 20 January. He first experienced flu symptoms on 21 January and suffered further complications four days later, eventually turning himself in. Both cases were tallied into formal records on 27 January.[20]

On 1 February, an update on the first four patients indicated that the first three patients were showing weaker symptoms and recovering well while the fourth patient was getting treatment from pneumonia. Rumours circulated that the fourth patient had died which health authorities denied.[21]

Two more confirmed cases were reported on 30 January. The fifth patient was a 32-year-old South Korean man who returned from his work at Wuhan on 24 January. The sixth patient was the first case in South Korea who had never visited Wuhan. The 56-year-old man caught the virus when visiting a restaurant with the third patient.[22]

On 31 January, a seventh patient was reported as a 28-year-old South Korean man returning from Wuhan on 23 January. He developed symptoms on 26 January, and was admitted to the hospital on 28 January.[23] On the same day, four more patients were admitted into the record as the eighth patient, 62-year-old South Korean woman, returned from Wuhan. The ninth patient caught the virus from the fifth patient through direct contact while the tenth and the eleventh patient were the wife and child who were infected while visiting the sixth patient.[24]

On 1 February, a 49-year-old Chinese national working in Japan as a tour guide was confirmed as the twelfth patient. He caught the virus while visiting a Japanese patient in Japan and entered South Korea through Gimpo International Airport on 19 January.[21] The KCDC confirmed an additional three cases on 2 February, bringing the total to fifteen.[25]

A woman, who had returned from Thailand after a five-day vacation, was tested positive and confirmed as the sixteenth case on 4 February.[26] Three more cases were confirmed on 5 February, bringing the total case count to 19. The seventeenth and nineteenth patients had attended a conference in Singapore and been in contact with an infected individual there.[27] The very same day the KCDC announced that the second patient had been released from hospital after being tested negative in consecutive tests, becoming the country's first coronavirus patient to fully recover.[28]

Details of the first 30 confirmed cases in South Korea (As of 17 February 2020)
Case Date Age Gender Nationality Place of stay Hospital of admission Visited Wuhan? Entry date Status Contacts of case Note Source
1 20 January 2020 35 Female Chinese Incheon Incheon Metropolitan City Medical Center, Incheon Yes 19 January 2020 Discharged (6 February 2020) 45 [29][30][31]
2 24 January 2020 55 Male Korean Seoul National Medical Center, Seoul Yes 22 January 2020 Discharged (5 February 2020) 75 [29][31]
3 26 January 2020 54 Male Korean Goyang Myongji Hospital, Goyang Yes 20 January 2020 Discharged (12 February 2020) 16 [29][31]
4 27 January 2020 55 Male Korean Pyeongtaek Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam Yes 20 January 2020 Discharged (9 February 2020) 95 [29][31]
5 30 January 2020 33 Male Korean Seoul Seoul Metropolitan City Seoul Medical Center, Seoul Yes 24 January 2020 Discharged (March 2020) 31 [29][31]
6 30 January 2020 55 Male Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (19 February 2020) 17 Friend of case 3 [29][31]
7 30 January 2020 28 Male Korean Seoul Seoul Metropolitan City Seoul Medical Center, Seoul Yes 23 January 2020 Discharged (15 February 2020) 9 [29][31]
8 31 January 2020 62 Female Korean Gunsan Wonkwang University Hospital, Iksan Yes 23 January 2020 Discharged (12 February 2020) 113 [29][31]
9 31 January 2020 28 Female Korean Seoul Seoul Metropolitan City Seoul Medical Center, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (24 February 2020) 2 Friend of case 5 [29][31]
10 31 January 2020 54 Female Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (19 February 2020) 43 Wife of case 6 [29][31]
11 31 January 2020 25 Male Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (10 February 2020) 43 Son of case 6 [29][31]
12 1 February 2020 48 Male Chinese Bucheon Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam No 19 January 2020 (Japan) Discharged (18 February 2020) 422 Related to Japanese confirmed case [29][31]
13 2 February 2020 28 Male Korean Asan National Medical Center, Seoul Yes 31 January 2020 Discharged (24 February 2020) 0 Passenger on board the evacuation flights from Wuhan [29][31]
14 2 February 2020 40 Female Chinese Bucheon Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (18 February 2020) 3 Wife of case 12 [29][31]
15 2 February 2020 43 Male Korean Suwon Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital, Seongnam Yes 20 January 2020 Discharged (24 February 2020) 15 [29][31]
16 4 February 2020 42 Female Korean Gwangju Chonnam National University Hospital, Gwangju No 19 January 2020 (Thailand) Discharged (19 February 2020) 450 [29][31]
17 5 February 2020 37 Male Korean Guri Myongji Hospital, Goyang No 24 January 2020 (Singapore) Discharged (12 February 2020) 290 Related to cases at Grand Hyatt Singapore [29][31]
18 5 February 2020 20 Female Korean Gwangju Chonnam National University Hospital, Gwangju No 19 January 2020 (Thailand) Discharged (19 February 2020) 8 Daughter of case 16 [29][31]
19 5 February 2020 36 Male Korean Seoul Seoul Metropolitan City Seoul Medical Center, Seoul No 23 January 2020 (Singapore) Discharged (21 February 2020) 68 Related to cases at Grand Hyatt Singapore [29][31]
20 5 February 2020 41 Female Korean Suwon Korean Armed Forces Capital Hospital, Seongnam No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (24 February 2020) 2 Sister-in-law of case 15 [29][31]
21 5 February 2020 59 Female Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (29 February 2020) 6 Friend of case 6 [29][31]
22 6 February 2020 46 Male Korean Naju Chosun University Hospital, Gwangju No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (15 February 2020) 1 Brother of case 16 [29][31]
23 6 February 2020 57 Female Chinese Seoul National Medical Center, Seoul Yes 23 January 2020 Discharged (29 February 2020) 23 [29][31]
24 6 February 2020 28 Male Korean Asan National Medical Center, Seoul Yes 31 January 2020 Discharged (27 February 2020) 0 Passenger on board the evacuation flights from Wuhan [29][31]
25 9 February 2020 73 Female Korean Siheung Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (5 March 2020) 12 Mother of case 26 [29][31]
26 9 February 2020 51 Male Korean Siheung Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center Anseong Hospital, Anseong No 31 January 2020 (Guangdong) Discharged (8 March 2020) 12 [29][31]
27 9 February 2020 37 Female Chinese Siheung Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center Anseong Hospital, Anseong No 31 January 2020 (Guangdong) Discharged (7 March 2020) 38 Wife of case 26 [29][31]
28 10 February 2020 30 Female Chinese Goyang Myongji Hospital, Goyang Yes 20 January 2020 Discharged (17 February 2020) 1 Friend of case 3 [29][31]
29 16 February 2020 82 Male Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (March 2020) 117 Friend of case 83 [29][31]
30 16 February 2020 68 Female Korean Seoul Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul No (Infection in Domestic) Discharged (March 2020) 27 Wife of case 29 [29][31]

18 February – 29 February

Shincheonji Daegu Church

On 18 February, South Korea confirmed its 31st case in Daegu, a member of the Shincheonji religious organisation. The patient continued to go to gatherings of Shincheonji days after showing symptoms, which are typically held with people in very close proximity and include physical contact of the members. Many of the patient's close contacts would turn out to be infected, triggering a drastic escalation of the South Korean spread of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection.[32][17]

On 19 February, the number of confirmed cases increased by 20. On 20 February 70[3] new cases were confirmed, giving a total of 104 confirmed cases, according to the KCDC. According to Reuters, KCDC attributed the sudden jump of 70 cases linked to "Patient No. 31", who had participated in a gathering in Daegu at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.[3]

On 20 February, the streets of Daegu were empty in reaction to the Shincheonji outbreak. A resident described the reaction, stating "It's like someone dropped a bomb in the middle of the city. It looks like a zombie apocalypse."[3] The first death was reported[33] in a mental ward of Cheongdo Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo County. According to the mayor of Daegu, the number of suspected cases as of 21 February was 544 among 4,400 examined followers of the church.[34] The hospital was suspected as the source of the present outbreak after it was visited by a woman who became the second fatal case of South Korea on that day. Upon investigation, it was determined that the infection had spread to that hospital through a funeral ceremony attended by members of the church.[35][36]

All South Korean military bases were on lockdown after tests confirmed three soldiers to be positive for the virus.[35] Airlines cut connections and cultural schedules were being canceled due to fears of further spread.[37][38] United States Forces Korea raised the alert level from low to moderate and cut off non-essential travel to and from USFK Daegu.[39] USFK Daegu's school facilities were closed and non-essential personnel were ordered to stay at home while any visitors going there were not allowed to enter.[39] USFK announced that the widow of a retired soldier who was in Daegu was diagnosed to be positive for the virus on 24 February.[40] Camp Humphreys enacted virus detection protocols, including temperature checks and raised the alert level to high.[41] On 26 February, an American soldier based at Camp Carroll was diagnosed to be positive and was quarantined away from bases via off-base housing unit[42] with contact tracing done that showed his movements to Camp Walker.[43]

As of 22 February, among 9,336 followers of the church, 1,261 reported symptoms.[44] At the time, 169 confirmed cases involved the same church and another 111 came from the Cheongdo Daenam Hospital.[45] 23 February saw another 123 cases with 75 being from Shincheonji[46] and 24 February saw 161 additional cases with 129 being from the same religious group. Over 27,000 people have been tested for the virus with 19,127 negative results.[47]

On 24 February, 15 countries imposed travel restrictions to and from South Korea.[48] It was also reported that a senior health official overseeing the COVID-19 efforts in Daegu tested positive and was also a member of Shincheonji.[49][50] Within a few days, a petition to the nation's president urging for the disbandment of the church had over 750,000 signatures. Their headquarters in Gwacheon was raided by law enforcement and government officials said all 245,000 members of the religious group would be found and tested.[50]

On 28 February, over 2,000 confirmed cases were reported.[51]

March

Recommendations for preventing COVID-19 released by KCDC under the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea.

On 2 March, there were over 4,200 confirmed cases.[52] With an additional 4,000 cases of COVID-19 within two weeks, and roughly 60% of the total infections nationwide having stemmed from the church, the Seoul city government asked prosecutors to press charges against the religious group's founder and senior members for murder, causing harm, and for violating the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.[53] Interviews have occurred with all 230,000 members of the religious group and nearly 9,000 were said to be showing symptoms of the virus.[54] Due to the number of infections in the country, ninety-five countries have banned or limited entry for South Korean passport holders.[55] Testing is also conducted at drive-through testing sites where patients do not leave their vehicles, but are met by medical personnel in hazmat suits over several stations. The process is completed in a few minutes and results come in several days.[56]

On 8 March, KCDC in South Korea announced that 79.4% of confirmed COVID-19 cases were related to group infection. KCDC also announced that outbreak associated with Shincheonji Church totaled 4,482 infections, accounting for 62.8% of the total confirmed cases.[57][58]

13 March was the first time since the outbreak on 20 January in which the number of recoveries, 177, was larger than the number of those who newly tested positive, 110.[59][60][61] However, with the recent cluster of cases in the Seoul Capital Area, there are new fears that infections may rise sharply.[62]

The controversy about Shincheonji also continued, and generated international interest. After the lawsuit started by the Mayor of Seoul, the police raided the church premises to check whether the list of members supplied by Shincheonji pursuant to a request by the authorities was, as the Mayor argued, not complete. The authorities checked the list seized during the raid with the one Shincheonji had supplied, and concluded that discrepancies were minor.[63]

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed concern that religious freedom rights of Shincheonji members may be violated in South Korea by "exaggerating the church's role in the outbreak," and stated that, "USCIRF has received reports of individuals encountering discrimination at work and spousal abuse because of their affiliation with the church."[64] USCIRF reported that South Korean "Vice Minister of Health Kim Kang-lip has publicly stated that the Shincheonji church has cooperated with authorities."[64] The Belgian NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers and CESNUR released a "White Paper" claiming that, although it did make "mistakes" in its management of the crisis, Shincheonji had also been discriminated because of its status as an unpopular group in South Korea.[65][66]

On 17 March, around 79 church devotees were infected with the virus after attending the River of Grace Community Church. The infections were claimed to have been caused by spraying salt-water into followers' mouths, under the belief that this would protect them from the virus.[67][68] Nearly 140 churches in Gyeonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul and is part of the Greater Seoul Area, will be closed if they do not implement preventative measures, including temperature checks, two-meter separation, and the wearing of masks.[69] As more churches are holding services despite a government order for social distancing, on 30 March, the controversial Manmin Central Church in Guro, Seoul became a cluster with 22 infections linked to a gathering in early March in which the group was preparing stock footage to use for online worship services. Other church clusters have appears in the cities of Suwon, Busan, Geochang, and Bucheon.[70]

April

As infection rates have risen outside Korea leading to increases of sick arriving in the country (476 of 9,661 cases were imported as of 30 March), the KCDC will be implementing stronger infectious disease control measures for travelers coming from overseas as of 1 April. Additionally, new self-quarantine measures for travelers coming from Europe or the United States will be in effect from the same day. For example, those showing symptoms but test negative, and those who are without symptoms and are staying short-term in Korea, need to quarantine for two weeks in a government provided facility.[71] Costs for the stay at the facility are the responsibility of the individual and total 100,000 won (US$81) per day.[72] A few days later, a Taiwanese woman was deported on 5 April for refusing to stay in a quarantine facility as she initially agreed and then later disagreed with paying for the cost of staying at the government designated facility, reportedly costing around 100,000 won per day.[73]

A total of 45 people are being investigated by the police for allegedly violating COVID-19 self-isolation. Under the revised anti-infectious disease law, violators can face up to a year in prison, a 10 million won fine, or in the case of foreign passport holders—deportation.[74]

Seeing the infodemic on COVID-19 information starting in China and spreading to Korea and the US, fake news researcher Cha Meeyoung of KAIST and the Institute for Basic Science, along with researchers from Ewha Womans University, started the multilingual Facts Before Rumors campaign to separate common claims seen online.[75][76][77][78]

A Canadian cast member with the touring The Phantom of the Opera stage play entered Korea on March 12, participated for roughly two weeks, and tested positive 2 April. An American colleague tested positive on 4 April, which shut down production of the musical until 14 April while the venue could be disinfected and contacts of the staff, those staying in the same hotel, and over 8,000 people who recently attended were contacted by health authorities who told them to stay indoors and contact a testing center if they develop symptoms.[79]

On 13 April, it was reported that at least 116 individuals who were infected and later cleared of the virus had again tested positive. The cause for this is under investigation but early speculation considered faulty tests, reactivation of the virus instead of re-infection, or remnants of the virus might remain yet not be harmful to the host or other individuals. The nation also stated their plans to send 600,000 testing kits to the United States and asked people to continue social distancing while hinting that a loosening of these regulations might come in the near future.[80] By 17 April, the KCDC stated that it knew of 163 patients who were said to have recovered, but again tested positive. The exact cause was not known but they stated several possibilities.[81]

Patient #31 continuously stayed in the hospital 58 days, as of 14 April. The single occupancy room she is in costs 400,000 KRW per day (roughly US$360) with a total hospital bill thus far north of 40 million won (roughly US$36,000). While she is the longest hospitalized COVID-19 patient in Korea, 4.9% of those infected have stayed in a hospital more than 50 days. Additionally, another one thousand people have been quarantined for four weeks or more.[82]

After several days with new infections numbering in the single digits (April 18, 20, 22), the government announced it was going to start lifting restrictions starting with stores, restaurants, gyms, cram schools, bars, and religious services; which is notable as most of the nation's infections came from places of worship. In coming weeks, arboretums, forests and national parks will begin to open with social distancing still in place until at least early May. After seeing Korea successfully lower cases of infection, President Moon Jae-in has engaged in "coronavirus diplomacy" with leaders of other nations, part of which involved exporting test kits to more than 20 countries.[83] On April 26, confirmed patient number 31 in Daegu was discharged after 67 days.[84]

May–June

Number of cases (blue) and number of deaths (red) on a logarithmic scale, and number of deaths in the past ten days (dotted black).

After a sustained period of reported cases in the country being below 20, a new cluster emerged in central Seoul. A 29-year-old patient from Yongin was found to have visited at least five nightclubs in Itaewon during the late night hours of May 1 and the subsequent early morning hours of May 2. After having gone to other places in Seoul and neighboring Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to a hospital in Suwon. His more than 1,300 contacts, several among them being difficult to identify and trace, were urged to self-isolate and have themselves tested for the virus.[85][86] Because of this incident, the Seoul city government has ordered all clubs, bars, room salons, and other nightlife establishments in the city to close indefinitely.[87] As of May 10, the number of cases that was linked to this cluster has since increased to 54, and is still expected to rise because of the large number of potentially exposed individuals.[88] On 11 May, there were 79 cases linked with the clubs in Itaewon.[89] As multiple media outlets clearly identified at least one of the bars as being a gay bar, the LGBT community in Seoul fears an anti gay backlash; social media users have threatened to track and stop the "immoral acts" in some of the nightclubs.[90]

Persistent local groups of infections in the greater Seoul area continued to be found in South Korea, which led to KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong saying in June that the country had entered a second wave of infections.[91] However, a WHO official disagreed with the assessment that the country is in a second wave.[92]

Statistics

Containment

In its efforts to fight and contain the virus, South Korea has combined testing with contact tracing.[citation needed]

Infected South Koreans are required to go into isolation in government shelters. Their phones and credit card data are used to trace their prior movements and find their contacts. Those who are determined to have been near the infected individual receive phone alerts with information about their prior movements.[93]

According to Chun Byung-Chul, an epidemiologist at Korea University, high-risk patients who have underlying illnesses are prioritized for hospitalization. Patients with moderate symptoms are sent to "repurposed corporate training facilities and spaces provided by public institutions," where they receive observation and medical support. Patients who recover and test negative twice are released. Close contacts and infected individuals with minimal symptoms who can measure their own temperatures and whose family members are free of any chronic disease are required to self-quarantine for two weeks. Local monitoring teams calls the quarantined twice a day to make sure that they stay where they are and to ask about symptoms.[94]

Preventive measures

Those ordered to self-quarantine are required to download an app that alerts officials if the patient moves outside of the quarantine. Violators are fined up to $2,500.[95]

Impacts and reactions

Transfer of a COVID-19 confirmed patient by Busan Medical Center
Medical staff at a drive-through test center examine patients with suspected COVID-19.
Sign in Daejeon pharmacy stating that all masks are sold out
Line outside a pharmacy in Sejong City awaiting the store to open so they can buy masks
Hand sanitizer in public elevator in South Korea.

By 18 March, South Korea's KOSPI stock index had dropped nearly 30% compared to a month earlier. The drop began on 23 February, when the country raised the coronavirus alert to 'highest level'.[96] On 15 March, the KOSPI closed at 1,771.44 and the Kosdaq finished at 524 points, down 7%, prompting the Financial Supervisory Commission to impose a six-month ban on short-selling, the first such action in nearly nine years. This was despite a markedly lower daily increase in cases. Automaker Hyundai Motor Company, having shut down its factories as the outbreak intensified, saw exports drop 21.4% in February from the same month last year.[97]

Social impact

Drive-through test center in Busan

As of 25 February, Daegu officials were aggressively warning residents to take precautions, while allowing private businesses such as restaurants to stay open. As a precautionary measure, many restaurants check the temperatures of their customers before accepting them. It is common for "offices, hotels, and other large buildings" to use thermal image cameras in order to identify people with fevers.[95] All Daegu's public libraries, museums, churches, day-care centers and courts had been closed.[98][needs update]

Apart from the city of Daegu and the church community involved, most of South Korea is operating close to normality, although nine planned festivals have been closed and tax-free retailers are closing.[99] The South Korean military manpower agency made an announcement that conscription from Daegu will temporarily be suspended.[100] The Daegu Office of Education decided to postpone the start of every school in the region by one week.[101]

Numerous educational institutes have temporarily shut down, including dozens of kindergartens in Daegu and several elementary schools in Seoul.[102] As of 18 February, most universities in South Korea had announced plans to postpone the start of the spring semester. This included 155 universities planning to delay the semester start by two weeks to 16 March, and 22 universities planning to delay the semester start by one week to 9 March.[103] Also, on 23 February 2020, all kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools were announced to delay the semester start from 2 to 9 March.[104][needs update]

The economy of South Korea is forecast to grow 1.9%, which is down from 2.1%. The government has provided 136.7 billion won for local governments as support.[99] The government has also organized the procurement of masks and other hygiene equipment.[99]

Entertainment agency SM Entertainment reportedly donated five hundred million won in efforts to fight the disease.[105][106][107]

In the K-POP industry, the rapid spread of the coronavirus within South Korea has led to the cancellations or postponing of concerts and other events for K-POP acts within and outside of South Korea, with example situations including the cancellation of the remaining Asia dates and the Europe leg for Seventeen’s Ode To You Tour on 9 February 2020 and the cancellation of all Seoul dates for BTS' Map of the Soul Tour.[108][109]

Travel restrictions

  South Korea
  Entrance refused to people from South Korea
  Entrance refused to people from some areas of South Korea
  Imposed quarantine on people arriving from South Korea
  Other restrictions (self-quarantines, medical examination requirements, monitoring measures)

As of 20 March, a total of 171 countries and territories had issued entry bans or suspended visas for travelers from South Korea.[110] On 16 March, USFK announced that travel restrictions for Cheonan city had been removed due to a decline in COVID-19 cases. Troops and Defense Department personnel residing in Cheonan were told to "contact their command prior to returning to work."[111]

Government reactions

Videotelephony of Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters

Number of inspections

The Blue House announced on 28 February the current status of coronavirus tests in Korea, comparing the testing situation in the United States and Japan. The number of inspections was 26 and 120 times higher than in those countries respectively as of 28 Feb. The cumulative number of inspections was about 53,000 by South Korea, while Japan was about 2,000, and in US about 440 cases were examined.[112]

Reactions from KMA

On 26 January, the Korean Medical Association (KMA) asked the government to temporarily bar entry to all travelers arriving from mainland China, but this recommendation was not followed.[113] On 27 January, KMA President Choi Dae-zip said: "The third confirmed case indicates that we have reached the point where we have to get rid of passive stance and actively prepare for the worsening of the situation, (and) the government should thoroughly monitor the trend of China's national outbreak of the virus and prepare administrative measures such as complete entry ban from China in case of the worst situation."[114] On 3 February, The KMA recommended halting all travel from China, rather than only from Hubei province.[115] After all, The KMA called for stronger government response in a total of six statements between 20 January, when the nation's first confirmed case occurred, and 18 February. A short time after that, cases spiked in Daegu and throughout the country.[116]

Public reactions

Presidential approval rating

Although there are[when?] many confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Moon Jae-in's approval rating rose by two percentage points to 44%[when?]. During the MERS crisis, the previous President Park Geun-hye's approval rating had fallen sharply to 29% due to inadequate management the MERS infection.[117]

In opinion poll conducted by Gallup Korea in the second week of March 2020, president Moon's approval rating had risen by 5% to 49%.[118]

Anti-foreigner sentiment

In February 2020, an entrance to a South Korean restaurant in downtown Seoul reportedly had a sign in red Chinese characters stating: "No Chinese Allowed."[119] "No Chinese" signs have been cropping up, and some businesses are simply banning all foreigners.[120] Some foreign residents have been excluded from the government mask distribution program as it is currently only allowed to 1.25 million foreigners who were subscribed to the public health insurance.[121] Concerning COVID-19, more than 760,000 South Korean citizens have signed a petition lobbying the government to ban Chinese tourists from entering the country.[122][123] The Daegu Lantern Festival mistakenly posted a notice in English that no foreigners are allowed to visit. However, the wrong sentence was removed and it was revealed a translation error by the PR agency regarding statement from a Daegu government official. The official in the Daegu city stated that the original message was the notification to foreign tourists about the delayed schedule of festival over COVID-19 concerns.[124] At least one Jamaican reported widespread discrimination,[125] and foreigners were excluded from citywide stimulus funds, with the exception of Ansan city.[126] Despite making up only 7% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases related to the Itaewon cluster,[127] on May 10 foreigners were urged to get tested.[128]

Homophobia

On May 1, a 29-year-old patient from Yongin visited several night clubs in Itaewon, a district in Seoul with multiple LGBTQ friendly nightclubs. When the infection spread, homophobic comments were left on CCTV videos of the club in question.[129] The mayor of Seoul has threatened to send police to the homes of people who may have been infected, raising concerns over anti-LGBTQ harassment.[130] Jeong Gol Lee, general director of a LGTBQ rights group in South Korea, said there have been many malicious reports about gay men[131] since the Itaewon cluster emerged.

International response

On 24 February, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upgraded the status of South Korea to level 3 (avoid non-essential travels due to widespread community transmission).[132]

On 28 February, Charles Schwab Corporation advised employees who had travelled to China and South Korea to self-quarantine for 14 days.[133] Multiple companies such as Amazon, Google, TD Bank Group, Bank of Nova Scotia, London Stock Exchange Group, and Cargill, Inc. deferred all non-essential travels to areas affected by the outbreak.[134]

As of 8 March, US military has suspended all travels to and from South Korea for all military personnel and their family over the concern of the virus.[135]

As of 10 March, 109 countries or regions restrict entry of visitors from South Korea.[136]

View of foreign media on COVID-19 in South Korea

The Washington Post has praised the South Korean government's handling of coronavirus outbreak and stated that South Korea is a model for the U.S. response instead of Iran.[137] The Washington Post also appreciated South Korea's response as a successful model for democratic countries.[138]

Agence France-Presse has compared South Korea's handling of coronavirus outbreak with China. The newspaper stated that "While China locked down cities, Seoul embraced widespread testing and public notice of movements of those infected, raising some privacy concerns". Also, AFP analyzed that the South Korean government handled the crisis using a model of open information, public participation, and widespread testing.[139] Additionally, according to the paper, Masahiro Kami, a chairperson of the Tokyo-based Medical Governance Research Institute stated that South Korea is a good model for every country for handling the coronavirus outbreak.[140]

WSJ analyzed the aggressive Coronavirus Test Program in South Korea. The government contacted the citizens proactively to test the coronavirus in various ways including a home visit, a quick 10 minutes drop off drive-through COVID-19 testing center free of charge. Although South Korea has not yet defeated the outbreak, experts credit the emphasis on energetic COVID-19 test program with reducing case numbers and fatalities.[141][142]

UPI has analyzed that South Korea's model has worked on handling coronavirus outbreak without any further harder restrictions on foreigners.[143] The paper also observed that Health authorities have aggressively promoted hygiene and social distancing.[144] Additionally, according to the paper Kim Jong-hwan, an administrator at Seoul Metropolitan Eunpyeong Hospital positively evaluated the government's deal with coronavirus outbreak by stating that "The government's response has been so well-organized. I'm proud of it."[145]

Time magazine and BBC News concluded that the reason for the high number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Korea is thanks to the relative "openness" and "transparency" of South Korean society.[146] The rapid spread of the virus was linked with the Shincheonji Church, with a significant proportion of the early cases linked to religious services held by the group in Daegu.[147] The Blue House announced on 28 February the current status of coronavirus tests in three countries: Korea, the United States, and Japan, and analyzed statistically the reasons why there were so many confirmed cases in South Korea: the number of inspections was 26 or 120 times higher than other countries. The cumulative number of inspections was about 53,000 in South Korea, with only 2,000 in Japan and 440 cases examined in the United States. After the tests, the rate of confirmed cases was highest in Japan (9.04%), followed by Korea (3.3%) and the United States (3.15%).[112]

Bloomberg L.P. analyzed the reason for the low death rate in South Korea. South Korea experienced serious difficulties during the outbreak of MERS in 2015 due to a lack of test kits. Afterwards, the country approved rapid deployment of COVID-19 test kits, and now they are able to test more than 10,000 people a day. In neighboring Japan, only about 2,700 people in total have been tested for COVID-19 as of 3 March. Officials in Seoul operate "drive-through" testing stations for quick testing. Diagnostics company Seegene Inc. is also exporting its test kits to other countries including China, Europe and the US.[148][149]

AFP attributed the factors behind the low death rate of South Korea to the rigorous testing and the infected population profile. South Korea's widespread testing leads mild or asymptomatic cases to be identified so the proportion of dying goes down. Moreover, the infected population in the South Korea has a unique profile. Most of the country's infections are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus and most of its members are young women. Statistics show that the virus is most deadly among older generations and men. So the death rate in South Korea is lower than other countries.[150]

CNN reported the innovative drive-through testing for COVID-19 in the northern city of Goyang, which was inspired by the drive-through counters at Starbucks.[56] Reuters detailed the new testing facilities in South Korea. Several drive-through coronavirus screening centres were built, including roadside testing facilities. Their purpose is to diagnose patients quickly, while preventing the infection of others in, e.g., a hospital waiting room or a community health center. The entire testing procedure takes several minutes.[151] William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, stressed the importance of the broad testing efforts in South Korea. It would provide us with an unclouded picture of the COVID-19 illness.[152] Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton has recommended the drive-through coronavirus testing in Australia.[153] On 10 March, Australia opened the first drive-through testing station in Adelaide.[154][154]

Business Insider analyzed the difference of coverage of patient testing patients for COVID-19, comparing the USA to South Korea. Per million citizens, South Korea tested 700 times more than the USA.[17] Fortune explained South Korea's efforts of setting up several "drive-through" coronavirus screening facilities as contributing to testing thousands of samples a day.[155]

By 10 March, CNN had an interview with South Korea health minister Park Neung-hoo. Park expressed cautiously his desire that the coronavirus outbreak had 'passed the peak' as the number of new daily infections had declined in recent days.[156] The South Korean government had the ability to operate about 15,000 diagnostic tests per day and has conducted over 190,000 tests by 10 March nationwide. Park also answered the inquiry from CNN about practicable tips for controlling COVID-19. Park expressed his view that dealing with outbreaks by focusing efforts on early testing and global cooperation would be crucial instead of the lockdown option, as the virus could still spread quickly without testing.[156] S. Korean authorities have arranged the two types of facilities, one for about 10% of coronavirus patients who required hospitalization and another for the patients who were only suffering from mild symptoms.[156]

Gradual lifting of restrictions

As of April 18, South Korea only detected single-digit numbers of new cases. Pre-season baseball is scheduled to start April 20, without fans in the stands, with the regular season to start in early May. They will be the second country in the world, after Taiwan,[157] to hold baseball games this year. Each player's temperature will be taken twice before a game. Players will be highly encouraged to wear masks in the clubhouse and in other places, except for in the dugout and on the field. Barehand high fives and handshakes will be prohibited. Umpires will wear masks.[158][159]

If a player tests positive, that ballpark will not be used for two days, in order to make way for cleaning and allot time for the virus to die. League officials will then make a decision on whether the season can continue based on how much contact that player has had with other players.[158] South Koreas professional soccer league, K-League, will be the first major soccer league to resume play since the coronavirus pandemic started. There will be restrictions on talking and spitting.[160]

On May 20, schools began to reopen in the city of Incheon, but immediately sent all students home after two students tested positive for coronavirus.[161] On May 28, the Korean CDC reported 79 new cases (all but 10 at a distribution center in Bucheon), and this led to hundreds of schools closing and 838 other schools cancelling plans to reopen and instead continuing with remote learning.[162]

See also

Notes and references

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External links

Media related to COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to Press releases about the COVID-19 pandemic by Ministry of Health and Welfare (South Korea) at Wikimedia Commons