Coronavirus pandemic

South Koreans find creative ways to combat Covid-19

Student Choi Hyoung-bin (left), 15, created the Coronanow website to offer useful information on the outbreak based on official data. His friend, Lee Chan-hyeong, 14, helps update the information daily.
Student Choi Hyoung-bin (left), 15, created the Coronanow website to offer useful information on the outbreak based on official data. His friend, Lee Chan-hyeong, 14, helps update the information daily.PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHOI HYOUNG-BIN

A drive-through test for the coronavirus. A body steriliser installed at entrances to spray disinfectant on people walking through. A mobile app to keep track of the health status of overseas visitors.

These and other innovative solutions have shown up in technologically advanced South Korea during its fight against Covid-19, and are drawing attention from other countries as the global pandemic widens in strength.

The coronavirus has infected more than 319,000 people and killed about 13,700 worldwide. South Korea alone reported over 8,800 infections and 104 deaths.

Vice-Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said last week: "We are seeking creative solutions, and we are making full use of advanced information technology in this regard."

The country has already come up with "some world-class best practices in our fight against the disease", which include drive-through testing stations and epidemiological investigations supported by Global Positioning System data, he said at a foreign media briefing.

At one of the 50 drive-through stations around the country, people with symptoms can drive up and wind down their windows for medical staff to take throat and nasal swabs and record their personal data in just 10 minutes. They get their results the next day.

This translates to six tests an hour - three times faster than in a hospital setting, which requires disinfection in between patients.

The government has also developed a "self health check" mobile app to keep tabs on foreign visitors. The authorities said the app has been downloaded more than 60,000 times, and its usage rate is over 90 per cent.

Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention deputy director Kwon Jun-wook said 400 users reported symptoms via the app, with 80 going for tests. None was positive.

The health authorities have also developed a separate mobile app to keep track of people under quarantine, and have started using drones to disinfect large areas.

Private companies and organisations have also adopted high-tech solutions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Major exhibition halls use body sterilisers to spray disinfectant on people walking through, while malls have thermal scanners to detect visitors with high body temperatures.

 
 
 

Citizens are also doing their part to spread reliable information about the virus.

College student Lee Dong-hun, for one, created a website called Coronamap to keep track of cases around the country when he saw too much fake news going round. "I sought to solve this problem by using official information provided by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to create an accessible map," the 27-year-old told The Straits Times.

The website went live on Jan 30 and drew 2.4 million page views the next day, trending No. 1 online. It has now accumulated over 37 million views.

Mr Lee has created another map to share information on where to buy face masks, and noticed there were other people doing the same.

 
 
 

"I think it's a positive sign that developers and individuals are seeking to share good information and data openly and actively," he said.

Student Choi Hyoung-bin, 15, created the Coronanow website to offer useful information based on official data, such as charts on the increase in cases and infections by region, and information on the patients. A friend helps to update the information every day.

The website has drawn over three million views since it went live on Feb 10. It has since generated profit of 1.4 million won (S$1,600) from online advertisements, which Hyoung-bin is donating to help fight the virus.

  • Additional reporting by Kim Yeo-joo
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2020, with the headline 'S. Koreans find creative ways to combat Covid-19'. Print Edition | Subscribe