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How South Korea coped with three COVID-19 waves in 2020, and what's to come in 2021 Updated: 2021-01-20 06:46:38 KST

One year ago today, South Korea confirmed its first COVID-19 patient.
And since then, the number has swelled to over 73-thousand, and more than 12-hundred people have died from the novel coronavirus.
The country's handling of the pandemic has sparked global interest as the country was initially able to flatten the curve early last year, then dealt with two more major waves of the virus.
Today, we look back on the past year of living with the virus in South Korea, and unpick some of the lessons learned and the challenges ahead in 2021.
For this, I'm joined by Thomas Maresca, Asia Correspondent for United Press International based here in Seoul. Welcome to the program.
We also connect with Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at University of Otago in Wellington. It's great to have you on our show.

1. Thomas: South Korea saw its first confirmed COVID-19 case on January 20th, 2020.
What do you think the most important aspect of Korea's response has been over the past year, seeing that it could initially flatten the curve and conduct tests as well as contact tracing effectively? What's stood out to you?

2. Dr. Baker: What do you think has been the most important aspect of Korea's response to COVID-19 over the past year?

3. Thomas: What has it been like for you, living and reporting in Korea for the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is there a story you covered that was particularly memorable for you?

4. Dr. Baker: Countries like Korea, New Zealand and Australia haven't been in as much of a rush to roll out wide-scale vaccinations as countries like the UK and the U.S. Some say there's no need to rush as these countries are seeing a much smaller number of daily infection cases but others are worried about the relatively slower pace. What's your opinion on this?

5. Thomas: What do the global audience want to read or hear about, regarding South Korea's example of responding to COVID-19?

6. Dr. Baker: New Zealand wasn't afraid to shut down cities and its borders until authorities were confident the spread of the virus was curbed. Other countries are still aiming to enforce lockdowns with minimal damage to the economy. Which approach do you think is right? Also, what's worked for New Zealand that other countries can also apply in their countries?

7. Dr. Baker: New Zealand's last community transmission case was reported on Nov. 18 Since then, all infection cases have been imported ones. But your government plans to open numerous travel corridors in the New Year. Is there concern that cases are going to surge? What requirements will be in place for travelers?
What should policymakers start considering to prepare for this new normal of possibly living with the virus for the coming months and even years?

8. Thomas: Infection cases have been spiking lately and there's been criticism about the delay of procuring vaccines for Koreans. What are some of the concerns or challenges that Korean society will have to work through in the coming weeks and months?

That was Thomas Maresca, Asia Correspondent for United Press International and Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at University of Otago in Wellington. Thank you both for your time.

Reporter : osy@arirang.com
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