While facing great challenges as one of the epicenters of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) the worst in the world, South Korea has turned to innovation to confront this virus. The number of confirmed cases in South Korea reached 7,869 as of midday on March 12, 2020. This was the fourth highest figure in the world outside China, Italy and Iran at the time. However, the country's handling of this crisis has won a lot of praise globally for its effective response and its democratic and transparent approach, which has become a reference in this field. While leading the government in the state-level response, National laboratories and startups are rushing to pour money and manpower to find effective solutions to manage this crisis.
Transparency and technology
Since the outbreak began in January, The city of Seoul faced this disease with a combination of technical forces and bureaucratic foresight. The statement of the General Coordinator at the Central Headquarters for Disaster Response and Safety Measures confirmed that the Authority believes in two basic values; the first is to ensure community participation through clarity and transparency, and the second is to appreciate creative thinking and the use of advanced technologies to develop the most effective response methods.
Under the Communicable Diseases Control and Prevention Act, Members of the community have the right to information on all developments in the fight against the pandemic. Not only are government briefings on the disease twice a day; the law provides for access to many sources of information. The government is sharing information with the community through an interactive website called Corona Map.
For accurate and detailed information about those injured, Authorities investigated their movements through information about sites visited through mobile phones, the use of credit cards, and the mining of surveillance camera data in order to prepare a detailed list of their whereabouts up to the seat they sat on in the movie theater. This information was then made available to the community via apps that employ GPS technology to allow individuals to avoid areas frequented by infected people.
On the other hand Such applications benefit people with mild symptoms who are under home quarantine. It also allows for self-diagnosis procedures and communication with the staff responsible for monitoring them.
It should be noted that the applications related to this virus are not only intended for the local population, At the border points of the State, Passengers arriving from high-risk areas are required to download a special application and report their health status daily for 14 days of entering the country.
Local governments have resorted to innovative means to manage the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Many municipalities have set up drive-through COVID-19 testing points where medical staff equipped with protective clothing take samples from people in their cars. This mechanism is an ideal solution as it does not take more than 15 minutes and its cost does not exceed twenty dollars, It also reduces direct exposure as it takes place through the window without the need for the driver to leave the car. Goyang was the first to open similar points, followed later by major cities including Seoul, coastal Incheon and autonomous Sejong.
Startups lend a helping hand
The rise in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 can be attributed to South Korea's widespread testing system. According to government officials, The country has tested more than 200,000 people and is able to test 20,000 people per day. The test results are between 6 and 24 hours and many companies are seeking to offer products that reduce this time. One of them is a Seoul-based company that has developed tools for diagnosing the novel coronavirus so that the result can be seen in just 6 hours instead of 24 hours. The company reported that it uses an automated system based on artificial intelligence to deliver results faster, It also exports these screening kits to Germany and Italy and sends samples for evaluation to Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Vietnam.
On the other hand, A biotech startup says it has developed a molecular diagnostic system capable of detecting COVID-19 in just one hour. The CEO of the company expressed hopes that this lightweight diagnostic tool will be used at airports, border crossings and treatment centers. Two biotech companies have teamed up to produce a battery-powered portable scanner that detects COVID-19 in just 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, A gene technology solutions provider has been granted emergency use authorization for the diagnostic tool tested in vitro. The coronavirus tool DiaPlex Q Noble takes only two hours to show the result starting from the time samples are collected. A single tool can perform 100 tests with weekly results of up to 1,000.
Another startup is using semiconductor technology to increase the speed and accuracy of real-time screening using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. Also called molecular modeling, It is a quick and inexpensive way to replicate DNA fragments for use in detecting viruses such as COVID-19. However, this technique may experience low accuracy when there are few viruses in the sample.
ELEC also reported that another company has rolled out a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device that delivers fast and accurate results in real time regardless of the number of viruses in the sample. According to the company, The device takes less than an hour to provide results and the cost of the examination will be about one-tenth the cost of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine.
Facilitating social distancing
With companies encouraging their employees to work remotely, closing schools and extending winter vacation for universities, Tech companies play an active role in helping individuals cope with the necessary social distancing. A remote work software provider has made it possible for startups and entities to use RemoteMeeting for free for three months to help overcome this crisis.
In contrast, Another startup provides free tutoring services to schools, educators, and education workers who have been affected by school closures and school suspensions. This company also allows the ability to ask questions, provide alerts, feedback, opinions, suggestions, questionnaires and all the necessary means to offer classes online.