Actually, it is barely more than a ripple.
After a week of single digit new confirmed COVID cases, Korea experienced a 'second wave'. Spring came to Korea in earnest in time for a 6-day weekend at the start of May. Hotels in resorts were fully booked, seats on domestic flights were sold out, and the highways and hiking trails were like grand central. As was widely predicted, the relaxing of social distancing resulted in a spike of cases. But let's put the spike into context.
Korea has now recorded 10,991 confirmed COVID-19 infected patients (as of 13 May). 260 citizens have lost their lives to the virus. The "spike" the 'second wave' generated peaked at 35 new cases on 11 May and the capital city of Seoul, with its population just over 10 million, registered its third COVID fatality since the pandemic began over 3 months ago.
Two important observations come from the 'second wave'. First, a 'spike' in Korea would not even register in any city in the US or Europe. Texas alone is registering 1000 cases per day according to CNN. Secondly, Seoul city was very quick to locate the cause of the spike, a single infected 29-year-old party goer who visited a night-club in the popular multicultural Itaewon district. Nearly 2000 citizens were identified as having been in proximity to the super-spreader and they were (almost) all tracked down within days, tested and so far, approximately 80 infected individuals have been identified. Others who visited the bars and restaurants nearby are being encouraged to self-isolate for 14 days. This country has again shown how it has managed to quickly isolate and neutralize the impact of the virus. Schools which were scheduled to reopen on 13 May have had the date pushed back a week. Bars and clubs have been instructed to close. Otherwise, the impact on daily life has been minimized.
Korea has proven to the world that it can not only contain the virus but when it erupts, quickly neutralize it. Watch this space; undoubtedly there will be more meaningful lessons emerging from Korea as we learn to manage this pandemic and put into place systems that facilitate a return to a more normal life.
Peter Underwood, Managing Partner
For up to date information: Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare Infection Rate Tracker